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PetMed: low cost veterinary care at the Arizona Animal Welfare League

Every day worried pet owners called the Arizona Animal Welfare League (AAWL) for low-cost veterinary care. Only affordable vaccinations and spay/neuter services were available. All that changed on April 9, 2011 when Judith Gardner, president and CEO, announced the opening of PetMed, a veterinary clinic to serve low income pet owners.

Funded by private donations, PetMed opened with once weekly service. Surgeries, if needed, were done on a second day. Through word of mouth advertising, 1,000 owners brought in 168 cats/kittens and 563 dogs/puppies during the first nine months. Additional funding expanded service to three days says Vicky Kamm, director of operations.

In a remodeled clinic, PetMed treats dogs and cats with fungal infections, cracked teeth, Valley fever, and fractured limbs. Veterinary services are limited, however. Walk-ins or emergencies are not accepted. There are no overnight stays. Clients must have an appointment and a fee schedule applies. Kamm says PetMD does not perform cosmetic surgeries such as tail docking or ear cropping. They will not de-claw cats or de-bark dogs.

For the first time, local limited income pet owners have a viable option to help keep their sick or injured animals rather than surrender them to a shelter. Take the case of Missy, a feral kitten with a broken leg. Missy lived in a colony outside a downtown Phoenix hotel. Staff had the colony sterilized and fed them daily. One day a worker noticed Missy’s limp. A veterinarian said a car probably struck the cat and suggested amputation. He recommended PetMed for treatment. Hotel staff pooled their resources for Missy’s successful surgery.

A couple’s pregnant dog Jazzy was in distress after delivering two puppies. A veterinarian determined a third puppy remained inside, dead. Only surgery would relieve Jazzy’s suffering. The financially strapped couple called PetMed. Not only was the surgery successful but Jazzy was spayed too. Later on, the couple brought in their male dog and two puppies for sterilization. Kamm says it was a win/win all around.

PetMed is staffed by a licensed veterinarian and two full-time employees. Volunteers pitch in with clerical duties. In 2013, PetMed plans to expand to four days a week.

 

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Debra J. White is an award winning freelance writer in Tempe. She serves on the board of the Phoenix Animal Care Coalition, volunteers with the Arizona Animal Welfare League and the Sierra Club and at Sky Harbor Airport. She lives with two rescued dogs.

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