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How Much Does “non-profit” Emergency Pet Care Cost?

How Much Does "non-profit" Emergency Pet Care Cost?
It Depends on Your Credit Rating!
How Much Does "non-profit" Emergency Pet Care Cost?
It Depends on Your Credit Rating!
By Ann Lambert

I've never had too much experience with "non-profit" veterinary organizations, until now. My cat suffered a urinary blockage, which is painful and will more likely than not be fatal within about 72 hours, so getting treatment for this is limited by time. The real scenario is that, unless your cat is unblocked quickly, he will die.

The only emergency care option for me and my cat at the time was the Dove Lewis Emergency Veterinary Clinic in Northwest Portland. When we got there by taxi, my cat was taken back to be examined immediately, as one would expect. There were other pets brought in while I was there, and each received the same immediate exam by the "technicians" on duty.

I was told that it would be at least $1200.00 for them to save my cat, and I was asked for my ID, in order to see if my credit rating for the "care card" would be accepted, so that treatment could continue. There was talk about 2-3 days in the "hospital" after unblocking the urinary tract, and a thorough flushing of his bladder. I was told that medications would be necessary for this endeavor to be successful.

But then my credit rating fell through. I had about $200 in cash on me, but that wasn't enough for them to save my cat---but it was enough to euthanize him! I was not persuaded that this had to be the end of my pet, so I asked that, for the money that I had, that they could at minimum, unblock my cat, and I'd take my chances---or actually, he'd take his chances.

I could hear my cat howling all the way through the clinic, and I knew something was wrong. What was wrong was that they didn't anesthetize him as they tried to unblock him by rectal massage. I saw evidence of this by the blood on his little rectum. When I insisted on seeing him, he was huddled in the corner of his cage, shaking and in pain.

I took him out of that place, after paying the bill. At about 9pm I was given a written prescription for a medication that I had to get from a compounder in Tigard, about 2 hours by bus. No way to get that done. I was frustrated that other pet owners were given their meds right at the clinic, but then THOSE pet owners had passed the credit check.

I found a veterinarian who took my pet in, with only $100 up front. They said the same things Dove Lewis said, except that euthanasia was only mentioned as a last resort, not as a response to my lack of cash or credit. I was not asked for my credit information.

Instead, a couple of days later, my cat was improving wonderfully. He had been unblocked and flushed, and was voiding on his own. The bill for this treatment that actually worked was $401.00, medications and special diet included. As I write this, he is almost back to normal.

Now comes the cold hard truth... When I failed the credit check for their over-inflated bill, Dove Lewis could only suggest killing my pet that was otherwise healthy. I noticed at least one pet owner who brought their dog in because he had eaten some chocolate. They paid with a credit card. It is not hard to see the contrast here, between those pet owners with credit, and those without credit. The pets whose owners lacked credit were destined to die.

Now, the title "non-profit" means to me, that even those with little cash will receive proper care. But such is not the case at Dove Lewis. I remember standing outside the clinic, reading all of the "in memory of" bricks that make up the wall that runs the length of the front of Dove Lewis. Now I wonder how many of those animals, those faithful and beloved pets, really had to die... and how many of those that did die, died because their owners didn't have the proper credit rating for them to live.

The idea that "poor pets" don't need or deserve anesthesia, or don't deserve the right to live is preposterous, and goes against my understanding of what is "humane" treatment. I make this public because animals can not speak for themselves. They can not tell us in words, what went on behind the closed doors of the clinic.

I think pet owners should be aware that euthanasia may not be the final resort---it may only be a response from cold, capitalistic so-called "care-givers" like Dove Lewis, whose bottom line dictates life and death for a helpless pet who has no choice in that decision.

Anyone who truly loves their pets, or any animal, must boycott Dove Lewis, until they either remove themselves from their "non-profit" status, or start acting like a non-profit should act, without regard for credit ratings. Stop the price-gouging that often may end in an unnecessary death of a beloved pet.

Do they need to make money? Sure they do. But needlessly euthanizing animals, for no other reason than a credit rating is murder, absolutely not the humane treatment that a non-profit organization is supposedly dedicated to. I was able to pay for treatment from a real vet, and I am almost done paying my bill Being gouged by Dove Lewis for three times the regular vet bill, and then offering to kill my pet was not an option anyone should have to face.

If you love your pet, DON'T TAKE HIM TO DOVE LEWIS if it can be avoided---unless he ate some chocolate, or you have a visa card handy... and you don't care if they gouge you for the bill.

And get a second opinion before you condemn your pet to death.

Amen to everything you just said 23.May.2007 07:10


I am so utterly disgusted with Dove Lewis I can hardly find the words. I, too, had a desperate emergency with a beloved cat some time back. She was howling sick in the middle of the night. I called my regular vet, but they were closed and referred me to their emergency backup -- Dove Lewis. I had heard of them before, of course, and had always thought that they were a good place to take a sick animal. (After all, isn't that what all their high-priced PR spots on TV say? Isn't that the impression that all their "charity" announcements give?) I had assumed, like most people do, that Dove Lewis does good work in the community -- that they take care of animals when no one else does, that they are the best.

That turned out to be so far from true that it was staggering. I arrived around 10pm, and my cat was not seen until nearly 2am. She sat in the waiting room yowling in pain until then. When we finally got through the hallowed doors to see a vet, it turned out to be the most clueless and assinine young woman. I assume she was a vet student. I can't imagine a real vet being as assinine and stupid as she was. She didn't seem to have the faintest idea what was wrong with my cat, but kept using the word "potentially" until it grated on my ears. I'm not exaggerating, it must have been every third or fourth word in almost every sentence she spoke. She began to order first x-rays, and then test after test after test. Now, I'm not a wealthy woman, so this was pretty scary to me. But not so scary as seeing my cat in this kind of pain. I figured I would find a way to pay for all this somehow, for now I would just worry about my cat getting better.

The tests became more intrusive, and the "potential" diagnoses less and less clear. The more she probed and poked at my cat, the more "potentials" came out, and the less certain she appeared to be about any of them. When she suggested some exotic test that would have cost nearly $1000, I asked her whether she could save my cat, if the test came out positive. She said potentially so, but probably not. Fuck that. It was nearly morning. I gathered up my cat and left. For no treatment at all, and no actual diagnosis at all, the bill came to more than $400. We didn't eat for half that month. I took my cat home and comforted her until my own vet opened at 6am. I took her in there, along with the x-rays I had paid for over at Dove Lewis. My vet diagnosed some kind of impaction, provided treatment, and charged me just shy of $40.

So I would never take a sick or injured animal to Dove if I could help it. It was an awful experience for me and for my cat. While I was in the waiting room, I saw with my own eyes at least three animals, including a dog that had been badly injured by a car, who were turned away because of lack of funds. (In my own case, they had demanded $200 up front, because I didn't have a credit card. I had to leave my cat there with a friend while I ran off trying to gather that kind of cash at that time of the night. If I hadn't, I'm sure they would have turned my cat away as well.)

I remember seeing another article, some time ago, about Dove Lewis's real nature. Here it is:  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/07/342461.shtml?discuss

Dove Lewis--not 23.May.2007 08:12


I've had very similar experience with Dove Lewis. I don't know how they get away with their P.R. Wait until you start receiving mailings for contributions. Someone should investigate. I assumed they were ripping me off to provide service to those unable to pay. Oh well. Someone post the dependable alternative.

Comment from Dove Lewis Staff Would be Interesting 23.May.2007 11:23

North Portlander

Many vet clinics are now becoming more militant about credit and payment. A couple of years ago I had trouble with a veterinary office to which I had been taking my companion animals for over 20 years.

They had been seeing my old dog since he was a puppy and knew that he could not tolerate some medicines and had a depressed immune system and a tender stomach. Even so, while treating him for a neurological problem, they prescribed a medication that caused his to go into seizures and collapse in our backyard. The result was that he had to have surgery and be kept in the clinic for observation and treatment for four days. He was never normal after that. The bill came to over $5,000. Even though I had always paid the day of service and been a long-time customer, when I couldn't come up with the $5,000 the day I picked him up (because I was self employed and it had not been a good year), they sicced their "accounts manager" on me and demanded that I sign a payment plan with very high monthly payments. I was able to make the first two but on the third month, it wasn't possible and I sent what I could with a promise that we would make it up in the coming month and continue with the payment. This was not good enough for them and they threatened to turn us over to a collection agency. They treated me like a criminal even though the whole thing was their fault and we ended up having to take money out of my 401K to pay off the car loan so that we could sell our car to pay off the vet bill. I never felt one bit of sympathy from these people. No apology, no "you've been a good customer and it's unfortunate that this happened.

As far as Dove Lewis goes, I've used them twice over the years and the care was good but the costs were astronomical in each case. I had a credit card at the time, so I was able to cover the expenses but if I had been able to go to our regular vet they would have been far less. I always figured that it was because they are the equivalent of an ER and anyone who comes in after hours has to expect to pay for the overtime and the specialized equipment kept there.

Still, when I receive their expensive mailings (and unless the printer gives them a break, these mailings are expensive - I know - I worked in graphic design, printing and mailing for years - a lot of money is being spent on promotion), TV ads, etc. I wince. Same for Goodwill.

Any business with a Board or shareholders (don't think they have those, thank God) gets slowed down and the chief goal becomes fundraising and making a profit. Dove Lewis recently built and moved into a new building as well which probably means they are in the hole because of their expansion. I'm not sure what was wrong with the old building.

vet recomendations 23.May.2007 12:15

fred faveluke fredf@nwlink.com

My cat smokey had to go there once- he's dissapeared for a couple days and when I found him under the neighbors porch (after business hours of course) he was so sick he didn't even recognize me. I wasn't going to wait... They did a bunch of tests on him, kept him overnight on an IV. Basically rehydrated him. It was seven hundred bucks... Before they did this stuff they called me into a back room and gave me a paper to sign, low estimate $780, high estimate $960

There are a couple other 24 hour vet clinics in the area. I know of one in tualiton. I belive they are a bit more reasonable. (Dont expect compassion) use the phonebook, use mapquest, call mom and dad for a ride at three in the morning.

Smokey recovered over the next week and another hundred bucks at Hillsdale Vet. They gave him subcuteneous fluid under the skin to keep him hydrated (alive) I had a discussion with smokey on the importance of letting me know hes sick at 4pm next time.

My opinion is dovelewis is geared toward "pearl-district" yuppies. I dont have such a problem with this. I do have a problem with them posing as such a warm-fuzzy charitable organization, and after a half hour wait reading the warm-fuzzy stories posted in the lobby, being taken in the back room and given the choice between a huge bill or a dead cat, no in between, when in fact you have a $200 problem at a good vet office.

Also I'd like to take this oppurtunity for a cheap-shot at the chain-vets. My sister-in-law adopted a wonderful cat (adult, indoor) from the humane society with the understanding she could have her checked out and return her if the cat was defective. She took Goldy to a chain clinic near her apartment in south beaverton. The staff found a bump on the cat. Wanted to do a bunch of fancy tests. Sister in law was ready to take the cat back to shelter for a certian death sentance. I took goldy to Hillsdale vet for a $100 exam- Was told not to get too worried about the bump (I couldnt even find) and was able to reassure sister in law... She's a great cat, healthy, smart, really good with people, etc.

Anyways, I really reccomend Dr. Flecker at Hillsdale Veterinary Group. Easy to access by tri-met for those of you with the good sense to do without the hassle and expense of your own 4000 pound motorized steel box.

Ask around as there are certianly good vets in your neighborhood too.


I had to put my cat to sleep 23.May.2007 17:09

bean phed beanphed@gmail.com

About 2 months ago we had to put our faithful companion of over 8 years to death. He had a urinary blockage which we had cleared by a local vet but after about a week, the blockage came back. It was Sunday evening at 7 pm and we had no where to go but the Dove Lewis on the East Side near the 205 mall. Our cat was in pain and would not have lasted the night.

They gave him a quick check within 10 minutes of our arrival. We were told the same things many others mentioned here today. For quick emergency care there would be a minimum and maximum cost for treatment. It was potentially high, but we loved our animal and thought maybe this is all he'll need to get better. We signed and put our faith in the medical care available. Unfortunately the catheter to remove the blockage wouldn't fit and our kitty was still blocked. Additional surgery would need to be done by our regular vet or specialist to fix his condition. They informed us that our cat was stable, and if we picked him up early it would reduce the costs to Dove Lewis. They suggested we speak with our regular vet to see what options were available.

Urinary blockages, especially among male indoor cats are somewhat common and very problematic, with very little reason as to why they get it. The vet at Dove Lewis mentioned briefly and with a bit of discomfort that putting him to sleep may be an option because the costs could get high for treatment. They gave us plenty of information on FUS (Feline Urinary syndrome) and the surgery option available - Perineal urethrostomy. It's where they shorten the urethra of the male cat to hopefully minimize any future blockages.

The perineal urethrostomy or PU for these types of blockages don't guarantee a life free of problems, cats who have this surgery still can get urinary tract infections (more so then other cats). It's costly, over $1000 just for surgery, that doesn't include $$ for weekly vet visits for over a month, medication and potential costs for any complications. The vet at Dove Lewis gave us the impression that this was a viable option that we should consider pursuing and should discuss it further with our vet. Yes medical care, even for cats expensive. Have ya gone to an emergency room for humans? Holey moly talk about costly! Why would you think that same level of medical care would be cheaper for animals?

After reading some of the benefits and drawbacks of the PU procedure and speaking with our vet, my partner and I decided that we didn't want to put our cat through this traumatizing experience. As sad as we both are to see him go, we think euthanasia was the humane path to go in our situation. If anything I wish Dove Lewis was more forthright with this option. I can understand why they wouldn't be.

Overall, despite the costs, I thought the staff and vets at dove lewis were very considerate and understanding given the circumstances they work under. I would go again if I thought it would save my cat's life and there were no other options. Yeah, it's taking us about 3 months to cover all the vet bills, but I'm glad there's an option for us. Many cities don't have emergency care for animals.

The staff at our local vet were sad that day when our little cat left this planet. The people at Dove Lewis who work these emergency rooms get no joy in seeing our animals sick and in pain.

I do hope this will be the last problem you have with your furry friend.

If you're still concerned about where the money is going or coming from check out their annual report. See how much it costs to run 2 emergency rooms in Portland. They offer tours, take them up on it.

Me too! 23.May.2007 18:11


Reading over these accounts of incidents at Dove Lewis sounded like a script for what happened to us as well. $1,200 seems to be their standard "estimate" for servides regardless of the symptoms and/or problem. As does their unending "potential" list of "potential" problems and/or "potential" outcomes.

I won't go into all the gory details, but suffice to say that I whole-heartedly agree with Fred's opinion of Dr. Flecker and the rest of his wonderful staff at Hillsdale Veterinary Clinic. It's one hell of a drive for me, but Dr. Flecker treated my little terrier when Dove Lewis - and no else in the entire tri-county metro area - would not, and I can't say enough good things about Hillsdale.

Everyone there is great - real professionals who are extremely dedicated, caring, and will work with you to find a reasonable, realistic way to treat your pet - within your means. They went way above and beyond for us, and I'll always be grateful.

At the risk of shameless advertizing 24.May.2007 02:13

sixpack trid2bnrml@netscape.com

The very caring vet that I found is:

Dr. Blankevoort
4819 N. Lombard
Portland OR 97203

While Dove Lewis sucked my money up and DID NOT even unblock him, even for a minute (in order to re-block, you must unblock to start with) this vet expertly handled the situation, while taking into consideration that I did not have wads of cash on hand. The $400 versus $1200 span is evidence of Dove Lewis' new building and facilties, that WE, and our pets must pay for. I'd rather they had stayed in their old building, and give our pets the care for which they became known for at that time.

The important thing, for me, is that putting a pet down should not be decided on the inability to pay inflated costs---I challenge ANYONE to show me why, if other vets can do a procedure at a certain cost, that a non-profit organization can not. Non-profits get extra government grants or subsidies (I don't know about Dove in particular, yet) that the privately owned vet clinic does not.

Dove Lewis gouges people because they can---and hold our pets hostage to insure compliance.

And I put my name on every one of my opinions. I own each one. Any comments can be sent to:

Ann Lambert

Oh yeah, I appologize for the duplicate post---my browser didn't show that it had posted at all, much less twice. I came today prepared to post a new post, only to find it had posted. Again, my apologies.