Getting veterinarians involved is crucial to your program's success. There are many different ways to approach veterinarians and how you approach may depend on what you are asking from them.
Are you asking them to volunteer their services at a spay day once a month?
Or are you asking them to offer reduced rates through a voucher program to the public for an ongoing basis?
Whatever you may be asking for, here are a few tips:
1. Begin one on one.
Ask to meet a veterinarian on an individual basis. A great place to begin is your own personal veterinarian because you already have an established relationship! If you don't have a personal veterinarian, ask your friends if they have one they really like, or see if there is a veterinarian in town who is known for participating with animals groups, writing a pet column in a local paper, or holding adoption events at his or her clinic. Once you find supportive veterinarians, they can help reach build relationships with veterinarians colleague to colleague, which can add credibility to your program.
Offer to take the individual veterinarians to breakfast or lunch. It is often difficult for them to meet at their clinics because of all the bustle so taking them out for a meal can help in getting to know each other better. Some veterinarians may be a single practitioner or too busy to get away. In this case, offer to bring breakfast or lunch to them at the clinic.
Because their time is very precious, keep the meeting short, to the point, and show you respect their time by doing your homework in advance. It helps if you can leave something in writing for them to look at and get back with you.
You may want to set up a committee or advisory role with veterinarians to discuss issues on a regular basis. If you work with somebody on a project you will feel more comfortable picking up the phone later. Ask for veterinary advice on pet related issues. This doesn't have to be just spay/neuter. Involve them in the beginning planning stages of your program to show you care about their thoughts and ideas, and not after the fact when you already did it.
Focusing on low-income families or feral cats or work on a general spay/neuter awareness campaign are possibilities.
Aimee St.Arnaud, Executive Director of Humane Ohio, started their Operation Felix program with veterinarians from the community volunteering once a month for three hours at a set location. Aimee started by approaching two veterinarians she knew were supportive of her efforts and asked them to take it to the local Veterinary Medical Association (VMA) for their support. The veterinarians presented materials and the VMA voted to endorse Aimee's efforts.
She has had 34 different vets representing 20 different clinics donate their time. She provides all necessary supplies and prep work so the veterinarians only perform the actual surgery. (She also provided free pizza and drinks, which were a big hit.)
What did the veterinarians like?
Read the whole story of Humane Ohio's start of the Operation Felix's MASH-style spay/neuter clinic.
This could be new clients, referrals, or PR. Each veterinarian may have something different that appeals to them:
Ask for their input and see what they can offer. You may find they are able to donate time, but if not, work with them to look at the possibilities. One program in upstate NY offers to pay veterinarians $300 a day for their services to spay/neuter but also gives them the option of donating that money back to the group, and many choose to do so. There are many ways to establish a mutually beneficial relationship!
You may want to periodically attend meetings to update on your program or write updates for their newsletter. If your veterinary association doesn't want to work with you, find one individual that will do the work for you and go from there.
There are many creative waysóconsider getting framed certificates for their work, or throw a wine and cheese party, or get them gift certificates to local restaurants. While most won't expect anything, they will appreciate it.
Be aware that veterinarians went to school for a very long time and make less money than human doctors. Most start out in debt so can't always do things for free. Anything that they perceive as competition to their bottom line (a competing spay/neuter clinic) may be considered a threat.