By Callie Hietala
The SPCA of Martinsville-Henry County celebrated the grand opening of the new Louise R. Lester Spay & Neuter Clinic with a recent ribbon cutting. A crowd of cats, dogs, and humans gathered in the SPCA to tour the new clinic and learn about the opportunities it will provide both for area pets and local students.
Catherine Gupton, executive director, said the dream of creating a vet clinic has been a long-term goal. “We were finally able to start looking at making that dream a reality this year,” she said.
The need for the clinic became apparent during the pandemic, Gupton said, when spay and neuter procedures had to be put on halt by many vet clinics as surgical supplies were diverted to hospitals. “Everything’s been backed up since then,” she said. “The ability to do these surgeries on our own property on our animals will enable us to move our animals into adoptions faster.” Eventually, the clinic’s services will become available to the public too, allowing them to serve lower income families that need assistance with surgeries for their pets.
At the beginning of 2022, Gupton said, “we’re also going to be doing wellness clinics once a week for low-cost vaccines, dewormers, things like that.”
She said that the ability to do procedures in-house will allow the organization to cut back on its spending for veterinary services and funnel more money into housing animals and other services.
A video conferencing unit is set up in the operating room which will allow veterinary science students from Henry County’s Career Academy and students from Patrick & Henry Community College who are interested in the veterinary services field to watch surgeries and learn from the clinic’s veterinarian in real time.
Eventually, the staff hopes to get grant funding to convert another room in the SPCA into a radiology unit.
Though it was unplanned, the clinic welcomed its first surgical patient before the ribbon was even cut. A small black kitten, with a plastic cone wrapped around its neck, rested next to a stuffed animal in one of the clinic’s recovery areas. It had been brought in earlier in the day with an injury that took the new staff just 15 minutes to repair.
Those new staffers are veterinarian Dr. Cathy Connelly and vet technician Jade Fowler.
Connelly said the clinic will allow animals to move more quickly in and out of the facility, without having to work with the schedules of other veterinarians for surgical procedures.
“It saves the animals from having to travel on the day of surgery,” added Fowler, which can be stressful.
Connelly said both she and Fowler have advanced dental training and will be able to offer those services through the clinic.
“We know how (dental pain) can affect animals’ lives, and they can’t tell us,” she said.
Fowler said that some people surrender pets because they know they are in pain, but can’t afford dental work. The clinic’s ability to provide these services will, hopefully, allow more people to keep their pets.
Laura Bowles, a board member of the SPCA, told the crowd that the clinic was the next big step in the history of the organization.
“This clinic will also create unprecedented educational opportunities for local veterinary science students,” she said. “It is our hope that every adoptable animal in our community gets to find its forever home and every pet in our community will have access to the basic veterinary services they need to lead happy and healthy lives.”