Ontario family shocked at $1,300 bill to put ill cat down

During the pandemic more people became pet owners, but some may not realize how expensive it can be if they require emergency veterinary care.

Merrilyn Mulqueen of Toronto says her daughter's cat Cleo became severely ill one weekend. The 21-year-old cat was in pain and the family made a decision to end her suffering by calling a mobile veterinary service.

They were told in advance it would be expensive, but Mulqueen was shocked when the bill for less than a one-hour visit came to $1,315.

“I don't understand why this company would charge this much. It's taking advantage of people when they are extremely vulnerable," said Mulqueen.

Megan Boothby is from Peterborough, Ontario but currently lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Boothby has owned pet gerbils in the past and said her veterinarian had euthanized one for her at a cost of $180.

Last week Boothby said her current pet gerbil Theodore was ill and she took it to an emergency veterinary clinic because he was in distress.

“Within a few days he was struggling to eat and struggling to move," said Boothby.

The clinic said they could euthanize the gerbil, but Boothby was shocked when the bill came to $602.

‘”It just seems so nasty to charge someone $600 to put down a gerbil. It just seems absurd," said Boothby.

The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association said there’s currently a shortage of veterinarians, and like human health-care workers, veterinarians have been deemed essential since the beginning of the pandemic and the profession is experiencing high rates of burnout, stress and compassion fatigue.

In a statement to CTV News Toronto a spokesperson said "Veterinary practices are operated as small businesses and aren’t government funded. Like any business, prices will vary from practice to practice.”

“We understand how difficult it is to say goodbye to a pet. A veterinarian will discuss the options available and the potential costs, so that clients can make the best decision for them and their pet.”

“Veterinarians have a deep and abiding love of animals and will often go above and beyond to ensure they receive the best care, including end of life care. “

The Toronto Humane Society is now offering more veterinary services such as dental, vaccines and tick and flea medications. They also offer euthanasia for pets for $100 by appointment only.

“We've been growing the platform of services for the past decade or so" said Chief Operating Officer Phil Nichols with the Toronto Humane Society who added “Other humane societies across the province do run these services and are starting to get into them and I think that's an important message for the public to know."

Nichols stressed that humane societies are not competing with veterinarians, but trying to offer services to pet owners who may be underserved. Nichols estimates that about 50 per cent of pet owners may not have a regular veterinarian that they visit for pet care.

Other agencies are also trying to offer more affordable options for euthanasia and other services and it’s advisable to search around if you need pet care. Pet owners should know that in the event their pet requires emergency services due to an accident or illness they should realize the cost will be substantially more.

As medical care costs rise pet owners may also want to consider buying pet insurance or put away money each month in a special account that will be there in case your pet has a medical emergency.

CTV News Toronto did reach out to he mobile veterinary service that Mulqueen’s family used and a spokesperson said “We have a policy of the veterinarian speaking to every potential new client through a booked phone consultation to provide a transparent breakdown of costs after obtaining a thorough medical understanding of the specific home visit need. The client in question found our fees reasonable and booked a same-day, Sunday, in-home euthanasia for their pet.”

In the case of Boothby’s gerbil, the hospital did refund $200 when the family complained to management about what they felt was the excessive bill to euthanize the gerbil.