LESLIE BREFELD
Summit Daily News

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February 11, 2008
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Petscene: The money factor

SUMMIT COUNTY " When it comes to our pets, we like to think that money is no object. But pets are an expense, and ones that can be planned for ... to an extent.

The cost of a new cat or dog rescued from the Summit County Animal Shelter is $115 for dogs or puppies and $95 for cats and kittens. Shelter animals are all spayed or neutered, have full vaccinations, are microchipped and registered.

According to Nancy Ring, executive director of the local shelter, they also take care of pre-existing conditions like dental and medical care.

"The issues are resolved before an animal goes home," she said. "We spend a lot more than we gain through adoption fees."

If a pet is found another way, veterinarian Gretchen Norton said new owners can expect three vet visits for basic vaccines, the cost of spay or neuter, along with (and this goes for them all) an annual vet visit.

The cost of spay or neuter in Summit County is at the high end of national mediums, according to Ring.

For a 51- to 71-pound dog, a spay is $280 (compared to the national average of $202), for the same-sized male dog, neutering is $240 (compared to the national average of $175.) A feline spay here in the High Country will run you $199 and $128 for a feline neuter procedure.

Then there's food, toys, treats and bedding. According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a small dog will annually eat about $160 worth of food, a large dog $350. They cite a cat's appetite as running a bill of about $170 a year.

Litter boxes cost about $25, while a dog's crate can run between $60 and $160 depending on the animal's size.

And if you're planning to have a good dog, so to speak, training can range from $25 a session for a dog trainer to $250 a session for time with an animal behaviorist.

On the other side of the coin falls the expenses which pet owners cannot plan for ahead of time.

Heather Seaman and her English mastiff Haley only recently arrived in Summit County. Seaman said she at first couldn't afford to get Haley spayed, but finally buckled to the pressure of her friends, and got some help from the League for Animals and People of the Summit, to get the procedure done.

But the good deed took a horrific turn for the Florida transplant. A fluke mistake in the spaying procedure caused fourth-degree burns on Haley's chest. Since then Seaman has been going to the vet every day, and pays up front for the costs to heal her friend.

She's lost money from time taken off work, along with the thousands of dollars in surgeries and vet visits to repair the damage.

Yet she never thought twice about how she would handle the situation.

"You can't just let your dog have no skin and bleed to death," she said. "At first it's overwhelming. You think 'I can't do this, I didn't sign up for this,' but you don't have a choice. It's that or your dog's not going to be OK."

Haley has taken a turn for the better and looks to be ending her surgeries soon.

However to get there, Seaman had to take out and max a credit card; while her mom did the same to help out. Seaman plans to bring the bills to the original veterinarian to recoup the costs.

While Seaman and Haley's story speaks to the extreme end of the spectrum, even one major surgery in the High Country, say for swallowing something inedible, runs a bill on average of $2,000 to $3,000.

So what is a pet owner to do?

Pet insurance companies have been on the market for years, yet like human insurance companies, there are plenty of restrictions.

Veterinarian Norton noted that large-breed dogs can often tear certain knee ligaments, but VPI or Vet Pet Insurance, doesn't cover it until after the policy has been held for 12 months.

"Pet insurance tends to work best for traumas or injuries," Norton said. "It doesn't tend to cover issues like congenital things they are born with."

According to a story from the Veterinary News Network, pet insurance usually works through reimbursement " you pay the vet bill, submit a claim to the insurance company, and after deductibles are applied and according to the plan you purchased " you get some money back.

However, the network suggests another plan for the financially-conscious pet owner.

According to the story at www.MyVNN.com, "Consumer Reports has stated that insurance is only beneficial if something catastrophic happens to your pet. They recommend placing your premium payments into a savings account instead. Saving just $30 per month (a typical premium for pet insurance) in an account that generates 5 percent interest will create $6,000 over the lifetime of the pet."

Leslie Brefeld can be reached at (970) 668-4626 or lbrefeld@summitdaily.com.


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The Summit Daily Updated Feb 11, 2008 07:10PM Published Feb 11, 2008 07:10PM Copyright 2008 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.