SC Bill S. 687 Open Letter

Dear South Carolina Senators:

Please consider stopping Bill S. 687 where it stands. Limiting or preventing the ability of rescues, affordable/accessible wellness clinics, and affordable/accessible spay/neuter clinics to provide for our state’s animals and their caregivers will result in a tragic reversal of a very positive trend in our state. Limiting access to affordable care will result in more unwanted animals, more suffering animals, and then shifting the burden to public pounds, sending the kill-rates through the roof (again).

Given the thousands of reduced-cost spay/neuter surgeries (with vaccinations) performed in Aiken County alone in the last year, it appears that there is a very obvious need for accessible/affordable veterinary care in our state.

Since settling in Aiken 12 years ago, I have co-founded FOTAS (Friends of the Animal Shelter, Inc.) which incented and helped fund the construction of a respectable county shelter. The Aiken County Animal Shelter now has a kill-rate in the 35% range as opposed to 95% when we began in 2009. My husband and I then went on to found PAWS (Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc.) in 2014 to help keep our area from outgrowing the new facility. As of this writing, PAWS has funded or helped fund almost 400 spay/neuter surgeries for economically challenged households. Without the Aiken SPCA’s high-volume clinic, we could not have done 20% of this number. PAWS has also rescued and treated over 300 heartworm positive dogs. We do this through private vets.

Sir, my husband and I live with 12 dogs. We use private vets. When we foster litter after litter of puppies, or the occasional tragic case, we welcome the ability to share the burden of care with the rescue network. I have received many calls from South Carolina residents who love their animals, but who cannot afford to bear the full-freight of costs for treatment or surgery. We fundraise for private care. But given the volume of routine cases of vaccinations, heartworm testing and prevention, and especially spay/neuter surgeries, it does not make economic sense to use a private clinics.

Finally, I think it unwise and unfair for the state to engage in protectionist legislation on behalf of private enterprise. The clinic, rescue, shelter practices should be regulated and oversight administered to protect the public, the innocent animals, and the codes of conduct appropriate to the practices of impoundment, rescue and veterinary medicine. Veterinary medicine should only be practiced by licensed vets. But to tell all vets where and how to ease the burden of care will ultimately hurt everyone. This does not have to be an either/or situation. We South Carolinians can and should have access to both.

Again, I kindly urge you to let Bill S. 687 as written stop in sub-committee.
Thank you for your time and consideration.

Joya J. DiStefano, President and CEO for PAWS, Inc.

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