Banfield Pet Hospital Chain Pulls Plug On Successful Waterbury Pet Rescue By Halting Steep Discount

 For almost nine years, a group of volunteers, a Waterbury veterinarian, and the Waterbury PetSmart store worked together to save and heal thousands of homeless cats and dogs in Western Connecticut.

That successful partnership ended Aug. 25, when the largest pet hospital company in the U.S. told its vet, Dr. Rebecca Saria, that she could no longer give the rescue organizations a 50 percent discount. She was also ordered to stop accepting state vouchers for inexpensive spaying and neutering, and she was told to remove all photos of pets she has helped from her office walls.

Dr. Saria, in confirming what I was told by rescue organizations, said she was told it was time to get with the program and operate her Banfield Animal Hospital franchise just like all the chain’s other 750 hospitals are run.

Since then, the Rose Hope Animal Refuge group said it has had to greatly reduce the number of homeless dogs and cats it accepts.

Banfield officials noted that they provide a standard discount to rescue organizations in all their facilities and are simply asking that Dr. Saria follow its rules.

“We are asking that the hospital owner, Dr. Rebecca Saria, honor her franchise agreement by adhering to the same hospital operating guidelines all Banfield hospitals follow. As part of this agreement, we absolutely encourage and support providing discounts to shelters and rescue organizations; however, we ask that the discount aligns with our practice-wide initiative of 15 percent.”

“At Banfield, The Pet Hospital®, we are deeply committed to the health and well-being of every Pet that comes through our hospital doors—whether that Pet currently belongs to a family or is waiting to be adopted. Our commitment to caring for Pets goes beyond our hospital walls and into the community. Banfield has long-standing relationships with shelters, rescues and adoption agencies throughout the country—we provide various services including veterinary care as well as food and financial support thanks to the efforts of our hospital teams and our charitable arm, the Banfield Charitable Trust,” wrote Karen Johnson, DVM, vice president and client advocate for Banfield, in response to my questions.

Hanna Kenny, director of the rescue operation, and Caroline Abate, a volunteer, said their small group, consisting of about 10 foster families and about a dozen volunteers, was only able to operate successfully because of Dr. Saria’s generosity and devotion to animals. And they have been tremendously successful. According to their figures, they helped about 1,200 cats and about 500 dogs a year, providing them veterinary care, then providing temporary homes and ultimately finding them permanent homes.

The group used the Waterbury PetSmart store to temporarily shelter the homeless cats. The group also brought the cats and dogs to Dr. Saria’s animal hospital there for shots, spaying or neutering and for other veterinary care. Banfield has hospitals in 60 percent of the PetSmart stores, where they lease space.

Dr. Saria waived office fees and gave the group 50 percent off on all services. Her work for the group still brought in about $60,000 for her practice each year, from which she paid royalties to Banfield. She had a similar arrangement with another rescue organization, which generated about $40,000 in annual revenue.

For the past three weeks, Kenny and Abate said, their group has had to turn away many cats and dogs whose owners sought to give them away because could no longer afford to keep them or could not afford needed veterinary care.

But now that Dr. Saria can only give a 15 percent discount, the group has to travel as far as Westport to use other vets who will give 50 percent discounts. That has reduced the number of animals the group can help.

“It’s now a logistical nightmare to have to drive 20 miles to see a vet who will accept a state voucher or give a large discount,” Abate said, adding that her organization depends on donations and adoption fees to pay for their vehicle – which has 200,000 miles on it – and veterinary bills.

Banfield’s decision came at the worst time, Kenny said, as more and more people are facing financial problems.

“People are having a hard time between deciding whether to put food on the table or let the family dog go,” Kenny said. “I know they have to make money, but how about showing compassion and not just greed.”

Dr. Saria, who said she was ordered by the company not to talk to the media, said Banfield had known about her arrangement with rescue groups for almost nine years. It was only last April that her bosses started questioning her more closely about her discount program.

She said she is one of the top financial performers in the Banfield operation and has been given several awards for her business operation.

She insists that both she and Banfield still make money from the rescue groups and says Banfield’s take was only reduced by $1,000 a month as a result the discounts she gave.

“I believe in philanthropy and taking care of pets is part of my mission in life,” Dr. Saria told me, adding that her discounts have not hurt the business. She said her operation is one of the most profitable in the chain.

“Money follows good medicine,” she said. “What I did was profitable for the business and it was beneficial to Banfield and to the community,” and to the animals.

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27 Comments on "Banfield Pet Hospital Chain Pulls Plug On Successful Waterbury Pet Rescue By Halting Steep Discount"

  1. this is a truly sad turn of events as the voiceless need our help now more than ever. I volunteer at our area shelter, and we were always grateful to this wonderful Dr. and Rose Hope for their tireless efforts in helping those in need.
    Shame on those who put $$ in front of the lives of the innocent.
    Don’t shop, Adopt. Save a life.

  2. Teresa Sirico | September 12, 2010 at 9:24 am |

    Disgusting! Who speaks for these voiceless animals whose owners did not spay or neuter their parents. Praise this Doctor. She works under the umbrella of a greedy organization with no compassion. Disgusting!

  3. Cathy DeMarco | September 12, 2010 at 10:00 am |

    Once again, thank you George for exposing this travesty. I am so disappointed that this company, instead of supporting and applauding this kind and generous veterinarian chose to enforce their policy of only 15% off for rescues. Since most vet’s fees are so high to begin with, receiving only 15% off is simply not enough. Frequently the fosters of these homeless and abandoned animals use their own money to make sure all of the pets in their care get appropriate medical care (as well as food, toys, treats, etc.). George continues to be a champion for the animals in Connecticut. Rock On, GG!

  4. Is the Banfield Pet Hospital related somehow to the Banfield Charitable Trust? If so the the BCT is to animal charity what BP is to fostering the seas.

  5. We got our dog through Rose Hope. It’s a good group, and I’m sorry to hear it isn’t getting support it had from Banfield. Petsmart’s support for rescue groups has counted as a point in that chain’s favor for me. Too bad Banfield doesn’t see it that way.

  6. While Banfield is a business, we are a veterinary practice made up of Pet-loving people who are dedicated to making the lives of Pets, and their family members, better. At Banfield, our care for Pets goes well beyond our hospital walls and the medical care we provide. We have a long history of being a supporter and advocate to animal welfare groups of all sizes, including animal shelters, rescue organizations, adoption agencies and non-profit organizations. We encourage these rescue organizations to seek help from dedicated Banfield programs that are specifically designed to help with their unique needs.

    In addition to providing direct funding to organizations, we also provide discounted and free Wellness Plans to clients in need. Furthermore, we collect thousands of pounds of Pet food to feed hungry Pets through our Meals on Wheels Association of America partnership, and our hospital teams host fundraisers in local communities for organizations that are near and dear to their hearts. Many of our doctors also provide free preventive care, vaccines and medications to low-income community members and homeless Pet owners on their own time, with the support of our practice and our partners. These are just a few examples of the depth of our community-wide commitment to keeping Pets healthy, happy and with their families.

    In regards to the Waterbury, Conn. hospital, we sincerely hope that the shelters and organizations that have benefited from Dr. Saria’s generosity continue to receive support from her as well as other veterinary practices in the community. The long-term success of all animal welfare groups and organizations requires a collaborative community effort, which includes the support of organizations as well as individuals.

    • This is EXACTLY the same boiler plate corporate PR BS they posted in response to the message I left them on their Facebook page. And this is the repost of my reply:

      It would seem to be completely up to YOU there at Banfield Corporate whether or not “the shelters and organizations that have benefited from Dr. Saria’s generosity continue to receive support from her”. YOU are the ones that as of Aug. 25 told her she could no longer give rescue organizations a 50% discount or accept CT state vouchers for inexpensive spaying and neutering. Dr. Saria seems to be the one here that understands the concept of the collaborative effort phrase you are throwing around.

  7. We just adopted our kitten from Rose Hope in July. It is so sad to hear this, as they are a truly caring rescue and do a lot of good helping animals.

  8. If Banfield truly is so dedicated to animal welfare and wants to help, they should let the Vet continue to offer the full discount and waive the office fees. This is why corporate ownership of medical services is so bad. All the folks at the corporate office care about is eeking out every penny of profit they can, often to the detriment of everyone involved.

    In this case, everyone comes out a loser. The rescues won’t be able to afford to pay for medical care for nearly as many pets. They will also have to be more selective about which animals they try to rescue. Special needs animals they may have been able to save and adopt out in the past will be euthanized.

    Those families that do adopt from the rescue groups will likely be paying higher adoption fees. But the problem with that is that there’s a price point beyond which people say it’s not worth it to adopt. If they have to pay several hundred dollars to adopt a pet, they may be more inclined to go to a breeder, or worse, a pet store, where they get a puppy or kitten with a written health guarantee.

    But it’s not just the animals, the rescue groups and the adoptive families who’ll lose out. The irony is that Banfield will probably lose money on the deal too.

    By focusing on the discount, they’re ignoring the fact that the two rescues are still bringing in $100,000 a year in revenue. That number will undoubtedly drop significantly if the discount is reduced and the groups are charged for office visits.

    So, instead of $100,000 in discounted revenue that they’ll collect royalties on, Banfield will only have $75,000, or $50,000, or less. So, by blindly adhering to “corporate policy” Banfield will probably end up losing money at this particular hospital. Beyond that, they’ve probably cost themselves a couple of million dollars in negative publicity alone. That’s the part that I don’t get. They have all these professional bean counters in the back office, but they fail to see the big picture.

    Do the right thing Banfield. If the Vet is willing to take the hit on HER profits to help these rescue groups, you should too. You might even make some money on the deal.

  9. If the rescue group pays about 60,000 a yr, how can they only be loosing 1000.00 a month? Someone’s math doesn’t add up. Whose the one with bad math skills? The vet or the rescue group…

    • This is my understanding… Banfield gets a percentage of all revenues, so the company is lamenting the loss of their royalties which is a percentage of the gross revenues. That is what is so startlingly hard to imagine- the hospital makes over 100K a year AFTER DISCOUNTS from shelters, and Banfield Coorporation makes 13% on that revenue. What the coorporation is upset about is that they want to make 13% on the amount of revenue generated BEFORE discounts (or at only 15% discounts) What they don’t understand, is that they will now get NO REVENUE because the shelters will not be able to pay the fees anymore and will go to other hospitals. Therefore, because they want an extra 12K per year, they are actually losing both the 12K they want AND the 13K they are already getting.

    • I believe that that is the amount corporate doesn’t get. Most of the profit goes to the franchise itself with a percentage going towards the agreement made at the time the franchaise was purchased.

      The 60,000 was an estimate on the VERY low side, we pay more than that to the vet. And that’s 1,000 in profits that corporate is not getting, it’s not that they are operating in the red. Banfield is such a huge organization and those smart decision makers need to realize that not only is Dr Saria helping all of these animals, RHAR is directly and indirectly recommending their practice with EVERY pet that gets adopted. WHY? HOW? Medical documentation is given at every adoption. Banfield’s name is in the letterhead. I can tell you for a fact that many adopters have brought these pets back to Banfield over and over again merely because they believe if it’s good enough for Rose Hope pets, it’s good enough for them. This type of advertising is priceless and they’re willing to give it up for what? Maybe Rose Hope should start charging Banfield for what RH has done for Banfield!! I wish they’d be honest enough to tell exactly why they are doing this and I’d also like to know what the trickle down losses will be 6 months from now.

      Remember though it’s not just the rescues that are being hurt. When a family adopts from the municiple dog pound, they are given a voucher that pays for the shots and the spay or neuter. Banfield is now refusing those vouchers as well. Not everyone has access to a vehicle and Waterbury Banfield is located in a low income area. If one pet doesn’t get altered, that’s how many more puppies going into rescue? or to the dog pound? or on the street or God help them, worse… WAKE UP BANFIELD, there’s a whole lot more to your decisions than Rose Hope and what their future holds…

  10. Last Chance Animal Rescue | September 14, 2010 at 1:28 pm |

    Last Chance Animal Rescue saves and rehomes between 8-10 thousand pets a year. Banfield is a valuable partner in our work. They help us treat adopted pets as needed and we also partner with Banfield and our local hospices to help the pets of people who are dying. Together we and Banfield provide medical treatment to Hospice patients’ pets then help with the eventual rehoming as needed. Banfield has helped us negotiate uncharted waters with so many ill animals that have come to us from shelters. They help the elderly and income-disadvantaged with free wellness plans. They help shelter animals through the outreach program to shelters. Oh did I mention how much Meals-on-Wheels relies on the donations garnered through Banfield?
    Give them a break! They will help the Connecticut group, just in other ways. I am sure of it! If they don’t, I will! Give me a call, Rose Hope Animal Refuge! lastchanceanimalrescue dot org

    -Cindy Sharpley, Executive Director, Last Chance Animal Rescue

    • From Michigan will you also help all the CT people who need the state vouchers for low cost spaying and neutering that Banfield ordered Dr. Saria to stop accepting? How about the families here in a very economically depressed area of CT who benefited from Dr. Saria’s kindness, caring and generosity? If Banfield will help them in other ways, as you are so convinced of, why don’t they just let Dr. Saria continue her work of the past 9 years? Or better yet, why don’t they change THEIR policies to match Dr. Saria’s, so the policy wonks will be happy?

  11. The consequences of Banfield’s decisions will reach much farther than just Waterbury. As a PA pet owner who spends a great deal of my personal funds on my pets and donating to various rescues, I will be sure not to patronize Banfield’s or PetSmart businesses. After Banfield’s bad PR re. microchipping a few years ago, they could really use the positive publicity that would come from allowing Dr. Saria to continue providing services at the same rate that she has been.

  12. I will NOT go any Banfield Hospitals anymore. In fact, I am now taking their link off my website which refurs new adopters there. This is disgusting and horrible. There are so many animals in Waterbury that need help. They are the 2nd highest kill shelter in CT….this is only going to make it worse. Many in rescue dont make money off doing this…its all volunteer. This is why this world is falling apart-due to greed! What happened to trying to make a difference? They may state that they care about animals but the proof is in the pudding. People want to SEE proof. Not only should they loose the business of the rescues now, they should loose the business of all the people who rescues ref there! Maybe they should really experience loss since thats all that corporate chains care about! I WILL NO LONGER SUGGEST ANYONE TO ANY BANFIELD HOSPITALS AND WILL NOT SHOP AT PETSMART EITHER!!!!!!!!!!

    • While I do support your decision not to go to banfield, Rose Hope Animal Refuge also relies on its funding from Petsmart Charities which suppllies them with food & supplies donated by Purina. If you refuse to shop at petmart, you are hurting the shelter, not helping.

      I however am equally as disgusted with the corporate decision to limit the discount, as I work closely with Rose Hope myself and often foster cats for them. Rose hope has been a tremendous help with my fosters and with my own animals. I encourage everyone to sign their petition on change.org to help gain their discount back!!

  13. Lydia A. Crepon | September 16, 2010 at 10:50 am |

    I am saddened that this is happening at Banfield in Waterbury. As a fellow rescuer, President of Crepon Strays, Inc. In Watertown, I depended upon the liason I had with Rose Hope and Hanna Kenny to help some of the needy animals I pulled from various shelters. I don’t have a kennel, so I could fund pulling an animal and perhaps getting vaccines and then Rose Hope would take it from there….we saved quite a number of dogs this way working collaboratively…please reconsider what Dr. Saria is doing and how well her Waterbury site is doing. It is sad that animals will now suffer due to a company’s greediness. Rose Hope has already had to cut back on the number of animals pulled from shelters by Crepon Strays, because there is no money. Most of the money I put into these animals come out of my own pocket and no matter what adoption fee you have, you can never recover what you spend, if you truly take care of an animal properly. We need the larger companies, such as Banfield to step up to the plate, and help us continue to help the animals. It means future business for Banfield and many more rescued animals.

  14. Instead of cutting the discount from 50% to 15% Banfield should make it nation wide that they are happy to give 50% off for the care of all the voiceless animals. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the Drs, and hospitals cared as deeply as Dr. Saris. I feel if everyone were like Saris the world would have thousands less of unwanted animals that multiply every year. Come on Banfield

  15. I am beyond saddened to think the already huge number of homeless/sick animals will now grow even larger due to a decision made based on money. It’s beyond unfortunate that these innocent animals will have to suffer because of this detrimental outcome. I don’t understand how people can be so heartless! I visited the animals of rose hope yesterday and there was a 2 week old kitten who had half its face scratched off. I can’t even imagine having to turn pets away like that due to this shameful ruling.

  16. Paige gillies | September 23, 2010 at 9:59 pm |

    classic corporate behavior; greed leading to poorly reasoned decisions that hurt everyone involved. Did they think they’d found to make another 50 percent on those sales?

  17. I am thrilled to report that I just found out that Dr. Saria has started her own practice so she can continue her incredible work with animals without the Banfield corporation blocking her at every turn. Her new mobile practice, called http://www.goldcoastmobilevet.com, is already starting new mission work. I am so thankful- she has been an inspiration to me, an angel of healing to my dog Lucy, and is such a compassionate and competent veterinarian. Kudos, Dr, Saria!!!

  18. I am now looking for a new vet in Waterbury. Since Dr. Saria left, the cost of visits has increased dramatically. They have also done away with walk-in visits. I just called to make an appointment for a cat with an abscess on his and was told to either wait one week (!) or pay an extra “emergency visit” fee.

  19. Michelle L. Carpenter | April 27, 2012 at 10:12 am |

    We can easily start showcasing Banfield’s behavior in the public where their customers and potential customers will see what type of business they run. Scare off their customers and run them down publicly. It always works!

  20. Rose Hope would have an easier time if they actually let their animals be adopted. Me and my fiance wanted a kitten from them and when I sent Hanna Kelly an email I received one sentence answered I asked when she might be available at persmart instead of being a good rescue owner she told me go online and look it up? Why couldnt she just tell me in the email. When all was said and done I asked if she recommended a veterinarian because hey ive never had an animal before. She said no and oh you dont have a vet reference than you cant have one of our cats. How would I have a vet reference if i have never had a reason to go to a vet before. Strange person its sad because we have a beautiful home and we would have loved to add a kitten to our family.

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