One of the most difficult task in running an animal shelter is hiring or contracting with a veterinarian. Either they cannot face limited budgets, or working set schedules, or just cannot deal with the volume of patients. Finding a suitable veterinarian is just a difficult task.
In order to be cost efficient, it is necessary for a veterinarian to perform a large number of spay/neuter surgeries. During the interview process, I usually ask what the usual time that the candidate needed to perform a surgery. When they claimed that they needed two or three hours, it became clear that you cannot afford the person. Good high volume veterinarians are hard to find. Sometimes you might find someone who can perform surgeries quickly, only to deal with constant suture failure after the surgery.
If you hire a luxury veterinarian, you need to explain the notion of limited resources. Veterinarians coming from the luxury practises usually have few patients and plenty of resources. To some, the act of providing just basic veterinary services is a slap to their profession. In the long run, you won’t be able to afford them because they demand the best of everything. Working in an animal shelter is an act of constant compromise.
The biggest issue facing a shelter veterinarian is placing a value on the services provided. Does it make sense treating a critically injured animal, only to have the animal later euthanized for lack of an adopter. It is a difficult balance; I have had veterinarians too quick to want to euthanize, but most are too slow. After all, we would take on animals that were surrendered by their owners because the owner could not afford medical care. Too many factors play in to the decision and I found it easier to relieve the veterinarian from those decisions. Many times the decision is based on cost. My last board of directors placed a $3,000 allowance on an animal; pretty generous by any standard.
If you live near a veterinary college, you will find it a wonderful resource for difficult injuries or illnesses. If one of your animals is in horrible condition, the chances are good that the college will take the animal as a learning experience for their students. Don’t expect the animal to be returned to you; usually one of their students will fall in love with the animal during its treatment.