FTC Gets Involved in Veterinary Care

For some time we’ve been posting about the amount of equity capital getting into pet care and both the consolidation and corporatization of pet care.   While this issue was resonating on our radar, we assumed this was just the wandering thoughts of a small business believer. Turns out that others were watching too.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which according to their website  is the government agency tasked “to protect consumers by preventing anti-competitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices, enhancing informed consumer choice and public understanding of the competitive process, and accomplishing this without unduly burdening legitimate business activity,” was also paying attention.  As we noted previously, the Mars corporation, which had already owned the chain of Banfield veterinary practices, recently purchased VCA veterinary hospitals and Camp Bow Wow (which VCA already owned).  This proposed consolidation attracted FTC scrutiny and resulted in the filing of an FTC complaint that the purchase would lead to, among other things, “increasing the likelihood that customers would be forced to pay higher prices or experience a degradation in quality for the relevant services.”.  To settle the FTC complaint, Mars has agreed to divest 12 veterinary clinics around the country.  The notice of the proposed consent decree (i.e., the proposed settlement) was published in the Federal Register on September 8th and the comment period closed on September 29th.  Six comments were submitted – none in favor of the proposed consent decree.

So where does all of this gobbledygook get us, besides giving Mark a thrill of perusing the Federal Register like he used to do at the Environmental Protection Agency?  Frankly, we suspect the proposed purchase will go through and the 12 clinics will be divested (it’s worth noting that all 12 clinics will be divested to other corporations that already own veterinary clinics around the country rather than being sold to individual veterinarians), but maybe – just maybe – pet parents will gradually become aware of the massive consolidation in the pet care industry and take the time to vote with their wallets to support locally owned pet care providers.

Thanks for reading and thanks for supporting locally owned businesses when ever you can.