WIESBADEN, Germany — Customers will have to pay for several veterinary services that used to be free under a new U.S. Army Veterinary Command system put in place this year.

Before Jan. 1, wellness exams, sick call exams and health certificate screenings to clear an animal for plane travel were free at most clinics. Owners must now pay $25 for those services.

The fee increases are part of the command’s effort to standardize pricing and services, allowing it to reinvest any earnings back into its own command fund, according to Paul Schmidt, a veterinary officer with the Europe Regional Veterinary Command.

“A client can expect the same pricing scheme no matter where they go now; in the States or here,” Schmidt said. He pointed out that although some prices have increased, the price for many services such as pet vaccinations have been lowered in Europe.

Schmidt said the new prices are a consequence of the Army’s centralization of veterinary clinics.

A memo sent from the Veterinary Command to customers earlier this year reads in part. “… since there has never been a consolidated Veterinary operating fund before, we must develop the working capital, essentially an emergency fund, to ensure that we can continue to pay our expenses if we were to have a lack of income for any reason.

“This requirement has unfortunately required us to raise fees to some degree across the command.”

Europe Army vet clinics were consolidated in 2002, but some other clinics were individually managed by the Installation Morale Welfare & Recreation officials. Additionally, a handful of vet facilities had been granted an exception to policy to charge examination fees because they had to pay civilian veterinarians.

“What they haven’t standardized is our personnel costs,” said Capt. Ellen Landis, officer-in-charge of the Wiesbaden facility, which has a German vet on staff. Landis said the change hasn’t affected her facility much, but some longtime customers are surprised when they now pay a sick call exam fee.

One customer at the vet treatment facility in Heidelberg was unhappy with the new price structure.

“It’s not very beneficial to the animals if families can’t keep up with the costs,” said Maria Robinson, an Army spouse. If families can’t afford the vet bills, “they’ll just dump their pet off,” she said.

But Samantha Nelson, also an Army spouse, said she thought the pricing system was fair.

“It would be nice if it was free,” Nelson said. “It could be worse.”

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