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Virginia Currents: Helping Families and Pets, Veterinary Clinics Offer Discounted Services

Many families in Virginia continue to face challenges in making ends meet. Rent, food, doctor’s visits and unexpected repairs can all add up, and for those with pets, veterinary care may fall to the bottom of the list. But there are options for low-cost services, as Catherine Komp reports for Virginia Currents.

Want to see more? Scroll below for an audio slideshow of the Richmond SPCA and Jessica Beath Clinics.

Transcript:
Last winter, Michael Verner came to Richmond SPCA every day for three weeks until he found the right match: Oliver, a brown and white beagle mix.

Michael Verner: He came up to me, licked me on the face, and that was it.

Oliver has been with Verner for a year, but before that he had a rough life. When he was rescued from a hoarding situation, Oliver was obese and had a collapsed trachea.

Verner: Which is actually why he has a chronic cough, he takes tabs everyday; he has a thyroid issue, he has bad hips, he has a bad back so we’re a perfect fit as you can see I have some bad joints too, so we work well together in that regard.

Verner brings Oliver regularly to the Richmond SPCA’s Clinic for Compassionate Care, which offers low-cost services, from routine surgeries and lab tests to dentistry and geriatric care.

Robin Starr: We believe pets bring an enormous amount of quality to our lives and that people of modest means need and deserve a pet in their life.

That’s Robin Starr, CEO of the Richmond SPCA. Before the clinic opened, they commissioned a market research study that found more than half of respondents with household incomes less than $60,000 worried about paying their pets medical bills.

Starr: We want to make it possible for all those wonderful potential pet owners to adopt a pet and we recognized the way to do so was to provide a low-cost veterinary clinic for people of modest means.

Bob Tillack, founder of BARK and the Jessica Beath Clinic About 20 miles north in Ashland, Virginia is another non-profit animal clinic offering low-cost services. Previously the Farrington Road Firehouse, the bright, spacious facility is now home to the Jessica Beath Clinic, named after the late, local animal welfare advocate whose foundation helped open the facility.

Bob Tillack: We do right now about 25 surgeries a day . . .

Bob Tillack saw a need in the community to provide spay, neuter and basic wellness services that pet owners could afford.

Tillack: Spay and neuter is essentially the backbone of any animal rescue efforts. With each female dog that’s out there, if she can have a litter every six to eight months, eight to ten puppies, it doesn’t take long to fill the shelters up.

Tillack is also the founder of BARK, Bandit's Adoption and Rescue of K-9s, a volunteer-run, no-kill shelter situated about a mile away on his farmland. Last year they found homes for more than 500 canines, but he says that’s a big drop from years past.

Tillack: We’ve been up to close to 1000 and now we’re back down to half that and I think it’s the economy, just for dog food, it’s an expense.

Both the Jessica Beath and Richmond SPCA clinics are providing a solution to offset those expenses. They have a steady stream of animals coming in for treatment, indicating that demand is high in the area for low cost services. Vets at the two clinics recommend preventative care and annual check-ups to help avoid what could become more costly treatments in the future. Catherine Komp, WCVE News.