Community teamwork keeps stray pets current on vaccinations


Our veterinary hospital works with the city to ensure all loose pets are healthy and vaccinated before theyre released.

Lost pets and strays are heartbreaking, and it's made worse when these pets aren't healthy and up-to-date on their vaccinations. But our practice has found a solution to work with our local government to improve the lives of pets and protect our community's health.

We have a contract with the city that makes sure all pets are current on vaccinations and healthy before releasing the pet to the owner. The police bring the strays in-they are the only ones we can accept strays from-and if the pet doesn't have identification, such as a microchip or rabies tag, or we don't know the pet, our doctors examine the pet and vaccinate it.

Then we board strays away from hospitalized patients until the owner calls us or until the pet has stayed with us for seven days-Missouri's law for stray animals. If the owners are found we invite them to come in and sign the city's release form that records their name, phone number and address. We give the owners their pet and fax the form to the city.

If the pet has been with us for more than seven days we perform a heartworm test and spay or neuter the pet. We then bill the city monthly for our agreed upon amount for the services performed for each stray. It's then up to the city if they want to pursue payment from each stray's owner.

Our biggest challenge with the city was how to release the stray animal to the owner. At first we made the owner pay for their stray pet at the clinic before we released it. This made owners-and potential clients-very upset at us for fees they had to pay before we could release their pet. When the city made the release form, we could ask the owner to fill out the form and give them their pet. People are much happier knowing that their lost pets are being taken care of in the best place possible-a veterinary hospital.

I always love it when we find a pet's owner. It's a great feeling when you see the animal recognize its owners after not seeing them for a couple of days. And we've also had a lot of stray animals that we've adopted out to new owners.

My favorite story is of a client who owned two beagles, and her female had just passed away from old age. A couple of weeks later we happened to get a stray heartworm-positive female beagle. She was so cute and well behaved that none of us could bear the thought of euthanizing her. So I just knew that we had to call our beagle-owning client and tell her about this beagle. Of course this client couldn't resist her either and adopted her immediately and paid for her heartworm treatment. She now lives happily in her new forever home.

Julie Steinbeck is practice manager at New Haven Veterinary Clinic in New Haven, Missouri, and one of the 10 finalists for the Veterinary Economics Practice Manager of the Year award, sponsored by Nationwide. Read more about past Practice Manager of the Year nominees and winners as well as new nominees in the next few months at

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