Although I have had animals pass away under the Animal Emergency Center's care, I'd like to explain why I believe that this clinic is fantastic. A year and a half ago, I came home from work at midnight to find my elderly (but previously healthy) dog completely unresponsive. My mother and I took her to the E-clinic immediately, as this was simply the only specialized emergence clinic within a reasonable distance. The vets examined her, ran a blood test, and did a chest x-ray. Her blood work showed anemia (among other things), her temperature was low, and the x-rays indicated a medium-sized mass next to her heart, all of which they explained to us and, when possible, showed us. Thoracocentesis revealed pure blood. My mother and I were informed that the most likely diagnosis was a tumor on her heart which had opened into the thoracic cavity.
At no time did they attempt to pad the bill or give us false hope. Nor did they state that she was too sick/old to be saved. They merely interpreted the data and gave us their best conclusion in terms of diagnosis and prognosis. They were very careful to make sure we understood that this would be expensive and to ask how far we were willing to go financially. They told us how much every procedure would cost when we asked.
When the dog coded for the first time, we were informed that she had been resuscitated (as we had indicated we wished to have done) and that, given her condition, it was extremely likely that she would code again within minutes. As it was very obvious at this point that the dog was not going to make it (she had not woken since we brought her in and her temp. was still dropping), we asked that she be allowed to die when she coded next. They allowed us to sit with her the whole time (they were correct, it was only minutes) and did not chase us out the door when she was gone. They went over fees for cremation with us (at our request) and, when we declined and stated that we would have our family vet do it, they were understanding and helped us get her wrapped up and into the car. They were sympathetic, attentive, and skillful.
There are vets out there who are trying to rip people off, but they are not the ones who tell you every step of the way that this will be expensive. This visit cost $1500 (which was what they had told us it would be) between x-rays, thoracocentesis, blood tests, and resuscitation, representing roughly 10% of my gross income for that year; Although I was extremely upset with the loss of my pet and I was not happy to have to spend that much, I understood that this happens when you own a pet and paid the fee with no reluctance. A week later, we received a sympathy card with messages from the staff that had been working that night.
I would agree that the E-clinic is expensive and they do demand that you provide a method of payment prior to admittance. In a family vet practice, your animal can be kept if you refuse to pay the bill. In an emergency clinic, the likelihood that your pet will die is much higher and this won't work. Furthermore, people seem to believe that they are owed this service (whether they can pay or not) because it is the vet's duty to care for their animal. This is not true--It is your responsibility to either care for your animal, or, if you physically/financially cannot do so, to let the animal go. Nearly everyone has a point where they have to say, "Stop, I cannot afford to go any farther with this." It is terrible and it is painful, but it's the natural consequence of owning a pet and not having an unlimited income. If you can't deal with it, don??t own a pet.
The fees at this clinic are high. This is because it is expensive to keep a clinic staffed at odd hours of the day with skilled, well-educated staff experienced in emergency medicine. It is expensive to purchase and maintain the equipment that would allow a clinic to independently diagnose and treat an animal when no other equipment is available at that time of night. X-rays and blood tests are always expensive, but they are necessary for quick assessment of an animal's condition. It costs a few hundred dollars to admit an animal because they are assuming your pet will need a significantly higher than normal degree of attention and care and for longer than the 15-30 minutes given by a normal vet.
The quality of care at this facility is excellent. Their full-time vets are not brand new, dime a dozen, cheap as heck graduates from Podunk College of Veterinary Medicine and Advanced Taxidermy that are seen so often in larger practices. If you need EMERGENCY veterinary care for your animal and understand the cost this entails (to both you and the vet in question), this is an amazing facility. Overall, this is the best-staffed, most professional, most caring place that I hope you never have to go.