There are three parts to a M*A*S*H budget:

  • Per clinic costs, includes mainly travel costs for the visiting team, as well as the budget which is designated for animal transports.  Per clinic costs don’t change no matter how many days the clinic operates.
  • Per diem costs include anyone who is paid per day and includes the veterinarian and the technician(s) and also includes food and housing for the visiting team.  This figure does not change whether or not the clinic fills to capacity.
  • Per surgery costs, which include suture, drugs, etc. The supplies are used only when an animal has surgery, so this figure is entirely based on the capacity and usage of the clinic.

Because the greatest costs, the per clinic and per diem, are spread out over the entire clinic, the per surgery cost increases if the number of days or the number of clients is not used to capacity. 

You can use these overall projections to formulate per clinic costs.

We strive to hire veterinarians who are able to provide 40 or more surgeries per day and one or two technicians or assistants per veterinarian, all of whom have previously worked in a high volume spay neuter setting.   Unless your program is organized as a teaching program, having folks come to learn new skills by performing surgery on animals with little history of being cared for, that are possibly undernourished, etc., can be risky. Small incisions, quick surgeries and standard high volume procedures are vital.

Some things to consider:

Travel, housing, food, the use of a local building and other peripheral costs are the same per day if 45 to 50 surgeries are performed vs. 20.

It may be less expensive to pay a high volume veterinarian $400 to $500 per day to do 180 to 200 surgeries in four days than having a veterinary/ assistant team that volunteers but requires ten days to do the same number of surgeries.  Doing 75 surgeries instead of 200 is very costly per surgery if there are housing and other peripheral expenses.

  • The number of people should be figured as;
  • The visiting team (usually three or four people),
  • Five local volunteers,
  • Possibly two to four more people who help out intermittently

Food includes lunch, drinks and snacks throughout the day and two more meals plus lodging for any visiting volunteers or staff. The cost of lunch can be reduced by having sandwich “fixings” or making tacos on site; plan $60 to $100 per day for food for a single team, double if there are two veterinarians with their respective teams.  Successful M*A*S*H programs include:

  • The capacity to provide sufficient volume but not over planning.
  • Appropriate timing-three smaller clinics two months apart may be much more effective than one large clinic.
  • Excellent outreach before hand, and this includes education, outreach and ordinances.

Notes from high volume veterinarian, Terrance Yunker, DVM, with over 120,000 spay/ neuter surgeries in ten years of high volume experience:

Some items are more expensive if surgeries move slowly; for example, you use nearly the same amount of isoflurane and oxygen in one 45 minute surgery as in four 12 minute surgeries. Suture is the most expensive component in a surgery; obviously it takes four times the amount to close a four inch incision than it does a one inch incision. Additionally, according to all research, the incidence of post-operative complications and pain are related to incision length as most pain is derived from the incision; and obviously the potential for dehiscence, even leading to evisceration, increases with incision size as well.

Notes from our experiences:

Plan ahead through assessment, the greatest expenses are the per clinic and per diem costs (travel and veterinary pay).  If a clinic is overplanned and does not fill, there will be a high per animal cost and money wasted. However, under planning is creates a costly and tragic setback in your momentum as well.  Contact Spay FIRST!  for info about planning.

We encourage volunteerism. Those who are interested in helping remote area programs are desperately needed. Please consider the veterinary continuing education training available at the Humane Alliance Veterinary Training Center in Asheville, NC, a facility which teaches the surgical techniques that are vital to these programs.

Please see our Sample Budget for a MASH clinic.