Gainesville a haven for animals
With hundreds of local veterinarians, a state-of-the art Small Animal Hospital, and a fierce dedication to rescue unwanted pets
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:07 p.m.
Lafayette is in need of a small miracle. Fortunately, the black-and-white feline lives in a caring community where miracles are possible.
Small Animal Hospital
Veterinary Medicine's Small Animal Hospital features:
- Digital imaging service with CT, nuclear medicine, MRI and ultrasound
- One of the only interventional radiology and cardiology facilities in the nation.
- 22 new examination rooms
- 12 surgical suites, including dedicated rooms for laparoscopy and arthroscopy
- Facilities for emergency medicine, intensive care, progressive care and isolation
- Cancer referral and treatment center with linear accelerator with cone-beam CT image guidance
- Endoscopy room with laser lithotripsy
24/7 emergency and critical care services
- Separate primary care and dental facilities
Call (352) 392-2235 or visit www.vethospitals.ufl.edu
Her life began at the Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary in High Springs, where she was one of 697 cats removed from a hoarding situation unlike any seen in Alachua County.
The Alachua County Humane Society took on the task of finding homes for the hundreds of healthy cats seized from Haven Acres.
Little Lafayette is the last of them. She spends her time in an enclosure with half a dozen feline companions, but when a human volunteer enters the room, she's the first to hop up to a lap and make herself comfortable.
Lafayette's small miracle will come. She's a survivor. She just wants to be at home.
A LOFTY GOAL
Directors with various rescue groups in Alachua County insist that it “takes a village” of volunteers and supporters to save animals now in the Alachua County Animal Services shelter. They are proud to note that euthanasia in Alachua County has dropped from 8,062 in 2000 to 2,224 in 2011.
The goal remains the same: Alachua County will be “no-kill” by 2015. And that will take many more small miracles.
Amanda Burks took over as director of the Alachua County Humane Society last July. She replaces Kirk Eppenstein, who now directs Haile's Angels Pet Rescue.
It has been two years since the Humane Society moved into a new location at 4205 NW 6th Street. Burks says they are just now getting stabilized in the new headquarters, with more animals coming in. Joining her in January, Tiffany Tupler is the shelter's medical director. A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine, she is certified in shelter medicine.
Burks says that they have done about 700 adoptions from the new location, and have taken in about the same number of dogs and cats from Alachua County Animal Services.
“But we also see more animals coming into the shelter with the economic downturn,” she says. “When times are bad, some people just can't afford to care for their animals anymore.”
What really upsets her, however, are the college students who leave pets behind when they graduate. Or the family that moves out of a foreclosed home leaving a dog or cat in the house, hopefully to be found alive by a neighbor.
“I can't even fathom how someone could do that, but it is definitely an issue here,” she says.
Another shelter group, No More Homeless Pets, is able to do their spay and neuter surgeries for Operation Petsnip in a renovated space just behind the humane society headquarters. They've done some 13,000 sterilizations in the past couple of years, and offer a low-cost alternative for those who need it.
The humane society covers half its operating expenses through its thrift shop, which welcomes donations.
Tupler has worked in the field of veterinary medicine since she was 15. Her career path as a UF vet student wasn't directed toward opening a business, working in the industry or in sports medicine.
Instead, she was drawn to the college's unique shelter medicine program, started in 2008 through a $5.2 million grant from the pet rescue foundation Maddie's Fund. She's among the first students to be certified in the program.
“I've always had the drive to make a difference in whatever I do,” she says. For her, shelter medicine is where it's at.
“It means that everyone here is my patient, I get to care for them, and then see them adopted,” adds Tupler. “Even though it's a small thing, you can make a huge difference for the animals and for your own community.”
Call it another small miracle.
SMALL ANIMALS ARE A SPECIALTY
Gainesville and Alachua County have taken a step toward more small miracles with the opening of the UF College of Veterinary Medicine's Small Animal Hospital, which offers the specialized care and advanced techniques to prolong the lives of our much-loved pets.
Within the 100,000-square-foot, three-story facility, you can find such services as acupuncture and rehabilitation, anesthesia, anatomic and surgical pathology, cardiology, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, emergency medicine, internal medicine, neurology and cancer care and ophthalmology.
Have a cat whose kidneys are failing? There's a hemodialysis unit here. Is your dog in need of back surgery or hip replacement? Specialists within the Small Animal Hospital will take care of it. Minimally-invasive surgical specialist Antonio Pozzi has among his “celebrity” clients Chris Machen's dog, who recently underwent surgery.
You don't have to live the life of a “top dog” to be a UF veterinary client, however. The Small Animal Hospital offers primary care vet visits as well as dental surgeries. Referrals often come from local vets, but that's not a prerequisite to be seen.
Dana Zimmel is chief of staff for both the Small and Large Animal Hospitals at UF. In 2011, the Small Animal Hospital saw some 26,000 cases, according to Zimmel. Around 85 percent were referred by vets.
Most cases come from within a 150-mile radius of Gainesville, Zimmel says, but they also see clients from all along the East Coast. Owners have brought horses from California to be seen here.
Among the firsts recorded at the Small Animal Hospital are a knee replacement in a yellow Labrador retriever who had been living with severe arthritis for most of her nine years. Mica has rehabbed her new knee implant through regular exercise on the hospital's underwater treadmill.
Jackie, a husky/poodle mix, was the first to be treated in the hyperbaric chamber after she was bitten by an Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. She received two doses of antivenin and Leesburg vets gave her a 40 percent chance of recovery.
The dog had three 45-minute treatments in the tubelike chamber, where 100 percent oxygen is pumped in. As a result of the oxygen boost to her dying tissue, Jackie did not require surgery.
Although hyperbaric chambers have been used for years in human medicine, there are few scientific studies about its use in veterinary medicine. Specialists plan to use the hyperbaric chamber for a variety of cases, including burns and deep internal injuries.
Many local veterinarians traditionally refer clients with specialized needs to the Small Animal Hospital. Dr. Dale Kaplan-Stein who is a graduate of the University of Florida veterinary school, believes it is is still important to have a local primary care veterinarian who will follow your pet's care throughout life and help you interpret specialized advice.
Zimmel says the small primary care service at the veterinary college is “essentially a one-and-a-half doctor practice. “
“It is a necessary part of our curriculum for our 140 veterinary students to learn what it's like to do primary care,” she adds.
The students are here to learn how to be future veterinarians, but they don't do procedures without constant supervision and oversight, the chief of staff says.
Zimmel foresees future expansion “across all areas.”
“We will continue to seek out non-invasive ways to cure animal diseases, whether it be through surgical techniques, the interventional catheterization lab or elsewhere,” she says.
When the new building opened two years ago, the worry was that with the economic downturn, people cutting back on disposable income would also cut back on what they were willing to spend on their pets.
“That certainly hasn't been reflected in our caseload,” Zimmel says.
An achievable miracle?
The goal for the area's many pet rescue groups is to make Alachua County a “no-kill” community by 2015.
As medical director of the Alachua County Humane Society, Dr. Tiffany Tupler looks forward to the day “when I don't have to have this job, when animal shelters are no longer full and having to euthanize their dogs and cats just to make space.
“To end pet overpopulation will take a whole community's effort,” Tupler says. “If everyone gave a little of their time, we could help resolve a lot of the problems. We want to grow as a program so animals like Lafayette don't have to live out their lives here.”
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.