Why Would We Let Wall Street ‘Care For’ Our Pets?

We form deep relationships with our pets, critters who at least pretend to love us back, providing comfort and joy all around.

For many people, the animals they adopt and love become more like family members than pets. We form deep relationships with our pets, not just with the 164 million dogs and cats in our country, but also with the beloved parrots, goats, horses and other fellow critters who at least pretend to love us back, providing comfort and joy all around.

Sadly though, life for all of us animals is a spin around the wheel of fortune, so illness and injuries happen. That’s why some of the most valued members of every community — from big-city neighborhoods to back-road rural areas — are the staffers in our local veterinarian office. It’s a special group, not only because of their medical knowledge and remarkable skills, but particularly because practically all of the vets, nurses, technicians and support staff are there chiefly because they love animals and get personal satisfaction from providing care for them.

When I say they are “there,” I not only mean 9 to 5, but for the most part, this is a group of independent health providers are committed to being there when needed — including off hours and days off, for animal misfortune and suffering don’t go by clocks and calendars. Generally speaking, local vet practitioners also try to be there for low-income people who have more love than money to spend, offering deferred payment plans and even discounted fees so their animals can get the treatment they need.

But wait — sound the ambulance sirens! Something is going horribly wrong! This venerable profession that for generations has been a positive blend of private business and essential public service has recently been collapsing into a corporate model of Wall Street owned chains. They are monopolizing markets, reducing staff, gutting service and prioritizing the love of money over the love of animals. It’s not uncommon these days for frantically worried customers to bring an ill or injured pet into their old reliable vet office only to find it has quietly come under chain ownership and is understaffed and unwilling to accept the patient, forcing a desperate scramble to find emergency care, often out of town.

The same profiteering corporate mentality that has proven disastrous for human health care is now rapidly locking down pet care — and it ought to be outlawed as an act of animal cruelty.

Question: What does a packet of M&M’s and your local veterinarian have in common? Answer: Both are owned by Mars Inc., the global candy monopolist.

Since the 1980s, we’ve seen massive consolidations in industry after industry — airlines, insurance, newspapers, supermarkets, banking, the internet … candy, etc. They’ve created monopolies that run roughshod over consumers, workers, communities, suppliers and our nation’s commitment to the common good. So, now the corporate attitude seems to be, “what the hell, why not let monopolization go to the dogs?”

This change has been led by “private equity groups.” They are corporate-takeover sharks that borrow billions of dollars to buy out, plunder, then sell off the remnants of established businesses. They target enterprises that can be grabbed on the cheap but have assets like a loyal customer base. Then the sharks raise prices on those customers while cutting staff and quality of service.

This has been happening to thousands of local vet practices and hospitals, which have quietly been plucked by Wall Street entities bearing nondescript acronyms like IVC, JAB, KKR, and VCA. At first locals don’t notice the takeover, because the corporate outfit not only buys your friendly “Dr. Barry Bones” vet service, but they also buy the doc’s name. As an IVC takeover consultant confided: “People like to take their dog to local vets and not feel like it’s a corporate machine.”

But increasingly, it is. Solo practitioners who became veterinarians to provide friendly, community-based service now must answer to bean counters at headquarters — and, foremost, they must serve profit over animals. Veterinary Center of America (VCA), for example, is one of the most aggressive monopolizers, controlling access to and prices charged by 1,000-plus vet facilities in 43 states. In 2017, VCA was taken over by Mars Inc.

One feisty group battling monopolizers is the National Veterinary Professionals Union — Get info at natvpu.org.

Jim Hightower