Useful Tips When Starting an IHPE Service

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Feeling nostalgic today, I tracked down the original digital copy of my in-home pet euthanasia book from 2011. In particular, chapter 10 on Starting a Euthanasia Service caught my eye.  Perhaps it’s the time of year, but more veterinarians have been reaching out to CAETA asking how to get an in-home pet euthanasia (IHPE) service up and running in their community. Some 15 years ago, I recall sharing my hopes that home euthanasia would be available for every companion animal patient by 2022.  We are getting closer but still have a long way to go.   It’s important, noble work that allows all the comforts of home to be front and center.

This week’s blog shares some of my favorite tips to start a home euthanasia business.  For the complete read, you may find the book at Amazon.com.

  1. Talk to other mobile veterinary services in your community first
    ~ They may be looking for associate help
    ~ Discuss what you can offer when they cannot, work together
  2. Form relationships with the local crematories
    ~ Ask about home euthanasia inquiries, offer to help
    ~ Determine if crematory staff can assist with home pickup
    ~ Consider how your clients and crematories can work together so you can focus on the medical aspects
  3. Find a compassionate, meaningful name
    ~ Conduct a company trademark search to avoid a name that is unavailable
    ~ Ask friends and family what they think of the name; what it means to them
    ~ Run a Google search to see what comes up.  You may find it costly to move SEO away from a company with the same or similar name.
  4. Choose a vehicle that can handle the work
    ~ Must be reliable in all driving conditions
    ~ Should look professional (although new research shows that’s not super important to clients)
    ~ Consider one large enough to respectfully hold large deceased dogs for transport
    (I once put a llama in the back of my Toyota Sienna minivan…fit surprisingly well)
  5. Team up with good business support
    ~ Find a CPA you like, bookkeeper too (in case you find handling your own recordkeeping weighs you down)
    ~ Create accounts for the supplies you use regularly
    ~ Join the IAAHPC and learn from other EOL professionals
  6. Start small and be strategic
    ~ Order enough supplies for 100 appointments or so.  You can always get more.
    ~ Set your hours and travel range, and stick to it (breaking your own rules creates more work down the road, literally)
    ~ Market organically to local pet businesses, and most importantly, exceed expectations with clients every time

My own IHPE service in Colorado cost $4500 to launch and took 2.5 months to formally get up and running.  Two weeks after handing out my first brochures and the website going live, I had my first call.  This was back in 2006 before home euthanasia had much traction.  Today, a new service may expect a call within the first few days.  Every community is unique, but the benefits and opportunities are there.

And write that business plan!  Think about what you are building, what needs you are filling, how much revenue you need to generate, and what your exit strategy is. You may find you don’t need to start a new service, but instead find great joy working for another established service.  Also reflect on what will bring you fulfillment and why this type of work speaks to you in the first place.  All of this can and should be outlined in the business plan.  

In closing from someone who has been there and done that, starting (more importantly working for) a home euthanasia service was the most important endeavor of my veterinary career.  Not only was I able to help thousands and thousands of pets in need, but it has led me to euthanasia education and advocacy with CAETA.  At the end of the day, I still have high hopes that home euthanasia will be available for every pet and family across the globe in the very near future.

For more learning, here is another blog on the subject from 2021.

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Kathleen Cooney

DVM, CHPV, CCFP Founder, Director of Education for the Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy