A Milford veterinarian has given up her lucrative corporate practice and has purchased a mobile surgery center so she can continue to care for animals in rescue shelters where she gives 50 percent discounts.
The last you might have read about Dr. Rebecca Saria was in September, when the largest pet hospital company in the U.S. ordered her to stop giving the 50 percent discounts she had been providing to animal shelters for years.
Dr. Saria, after more than nine years with Banfield Pet Hospital in its Waterbury location, quit her practice and purchased a used, 24-foot surgical van, fully equipped with diagnostic equipment, instruments, computer, fax machine – everything you would find in a normal vet practice.
You can see and hear Dr. Saria and members of her staff today from 6 to 7 p.m. on my Internet radio/television show – The Connecticut Watchdog News Hour – at www.AmericanOnlineRadio.com and join the discussion on the accompanying chat room. The program is saved for future viewing at the same location or on www.Ctwatchdog.com.
And on top of that, you get Dr. Saria, an extraordinary woman who has committed her life to taking care of animals, not only treating physical ailments but also providing help for their and their owners’ emotional needs.
She has been practicing in her high-tech van for about six weeks and is ready to officially launch her business. She said she purchased it from a vet suffering from brain cancer who needed to sell the vehicle to pay his medical bills.
“I felt good about that,” she said, holding one of the four cats she was treating in the van as it was parked in her driveway last week. Her young German shepherd, Athena, could be seen through the van window, guarding the house.
By purchasing the van, she said, she not only gained a vehicle she could use to pursue her dream, she also was able to help a man suffering from cancer and burdened by medical bills. She also purchased a second, smaller van, that she can use in non-surgical cases.
She said she is only aware of a couple of other mobile veterinary vans in the state as well equipped as hers, but that more vets are now turning to mobile offices.
Her territory is all of Fairfield County – hence the Internet name of her business – www.goldcoastmobilevet.com. But she also travels regularly to Thomaston and to Naugatuck. In Thomaston she parks her van at the at Thomaston Feed & Grain store, where she has regular weekly hours. The store helps provide special food for ill pets to help them recover.
She also goes outside of her normal territory to help pets.
Every Tuesday she takes her van to animal shelters including Rose Hope Animal Refuge, and provides about $1,000 a week worth of discount services to these organizations.
In addition, she plans to go to different communities once a month and provide free medical care to homeless owners of pets.
Most of her work is done while the van is at her home or at the shelters, but she also takes it to others’ homes in cases where the pets are too sick to come to her. She also makes the difficult house calls when a pet’s life has to be ended. She knows the distress that pet owners experience when they have to say their final goodbyes.
In those cases, especially, she said she wants to go to the home so she can comfort both the family and the pet.
Dr. Saria, who has also published six novels, charges what she considers regular fees for clients who come to her van parked at her home. She charges an extra $95 to take it to a private residence.
Dr. Saria said she sometimes finds it important to be able to observe a pet in its home surroundings where it’s easier to accurately diagnose serious problems.
For instance, she described the case of a dog she first saw in an animal hospital, where it was suffering from multiple medical problems. Because the dog was in a strange environment and stressed, she was unable to completely diagnose it. When she visited the dog at its home, she discovered that the dog walked unnaturally, giving her a clue that it had liver problems, which was later confirmed by tests.
So far she has not earned enough money to draw a salary to pay her two volunteer assistants. She has been able to pay the $100,000 cost of the van.
However, she is not concerned. Her belief is that “you can do good and make money.”
Even before opening her own business, Dr. Saria had done well, both for herself and the pet hospital chain. She has received several awards from her former company for growing the business.
While with Banfield, which rents space at the Waterbury PetSmart store, she worked closely with animal rescue organizations to save thousands of pets.
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