Many Australians live with and care for companion animals. The overall wellbeing of all animals is a foundation for a good society. The Animal Justice Party (AJP) believes that animals should receive veterinary treatment and care when needed. Public funding should be made available to ensure that companion animals, free-living animals and wildlife do not miss out. The AJP will collaborate with governments, veterinary groups, animal charities and other stakeholders to implement a variety of schemes adapted to local conditions to make veterinary care affordable to all people, prioritising people on low incomes.
- Introduce subsidised veterinary care, e.g., Veticare, with a priority on low income earners, pensioners, animal rescuers and carers.
- Develop a publicly available register of financial support schemes.
- Facilitate the development of local and state government funded schemes in line with our policy: discounted and subsidised fees, regulated payment plans, low-cost desexing, microchipping etc.
- Make veterinary services exempt from GST.
- Fund the treatment of wildlife and other animals who are brought to the attention of veterinarians but do not have a guardian.
- Fund the desexing of cats and dogs, including companions and free-living animals.
- Address the veterinarian shortage and mental health crisis, including by reducing university fees, improving working conditions and providing financial incentives to work in areas of greatest need (such as rural and regional areas).
- Fund local animal ambulances to transport wildlife and other vulnerable animals to critical veterinary care services.
Good veterinary services are critical to a healthy and happy companion animal population. Animal companions live in almost two thirds of Australian households. The AJP recognises that companion animals are much valued family members. They also contribute considerably to their people’s general health and well-being, especially emotional support. The health care of companion animals should be affordable and accessible to all Australians.
Much like humans, companion animals can become ill or injured. While veterinary treatment is usually available, the cost can be substantial and prohibitive. If treatment is unaffordable for the guardians, animals may be left in pain with their condition worsening. In particular, emergency veterinary care can be very costly. This leaves too many guardians with the agonising choice between ending the animal’s life or surrendering them.
There are no standard fees, which can affect the affordability of veterinary care, particularly in regional and rural areas. Some veterinary clinics and animal hospitals offer discounted treatment or payment plans. Insurance is available to cover the health care needs of dogs and cats but it may be unaffordable for people on low incomes.
A small number of charities offer assistance with the costs of veterinary treatment, for example the Vet Crisis Fund in South Australia and Pet Medical Crisis in Victoria. Pets in the Park and Pets of the Homeless provide support to animal guardians who experience homelessness. But this is a stop-gap measure and the AJP demands greater government support for access to affordable veterinary care.
Making veterinary care affordable and accessible requires not only public funding, but also collaboration with local veterinarians, the Australian Veterinary Association, state and local governments, animal charities and local animal protection groups to develop feasible models that meet local needs.
Depending on local needs, there are a number of additional mechanisms that should be implemented by state and local governments to make vet care more affordable: fixed or mobile desexing clinics and other targeted desexing programs, travelling vet services (especially in remote areas, e.g., Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities (AMRRIC), vouchers covering total or part desexing fees, vouchers for general vet services, etc.
Each local government area should have a central register or website where animal guardians can find out what financial support is available. Such a register is especially important in emergency situations when decisions about life-saving treatment have to be made without delay.
Because of their essential nature, veterinary services should also be made exempt from GST in order to increase affordability.
Veterinarians are suffering a mental health crisis. They are at higher risk of depression and suicide compared to the general population. This may be aggravated when guardians cannot afford treatment for their animals. Having to end the lives of animals takes a big mental health toll. Australia is experiencing a serious shortage of vets, reaching the point of a crisis, with many veterinarians leaving the profession due to a combination of unfavourable working conditions, low pay, financial constraints leading to suboptimal treatment and care, and having to deal with difficult and sometimes abusive (human) clients.
Another strain on veterinarians is providing treatment to injured free-living animals (including wildlife) who are brought to clinics because they are often not reimbursed for the cost of these services. This adds to their workload and means free-living animals who are often victims of injuries from guns, fences and cars, may fail to receive the care they need.
Prompt veterinary services are needed during and after natural disasters, such as floods and fires. The community expects care for affected animals, and a government scheme should coordinate and provide recompense for these services (see our Wildlife Care Policy).
The AJP is concerned that many farmed animals and animals used for entertainment are also denied veterinary treatment, not necessarily because their ‘owners’ cannot afford vet fees but merely because the cost might reduce profit margins. The AJP is opposed to such costs being propped up by government subsidies or borne by charities.
- Mental Health Policy
- Companion Animal Policy
- Health Policy
- Ethical Economy Policy
- Wildlife Care Policy
Published on 6 September 2022