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Mobile pet wellness unit gains momentum

Contributed Photo  The RV donated by the Glenda Taylor Delawder Charitable Trust was in excellent condition and will be used for the fund's intended purpose: to help animals.

Contributed Photo
The RV donated by the Glenda Taylor Delawder Charitable Trust was in excellent condition and will be used for the fund’s intended purpose: to help animals.

What has long been a local woman’s vision is becoming a reality: a mobile wellness clinic to serve the pets of Carter County.

Danika Nadzan, founder and director of East Tennessee Spay and Neuter (ETSN), manages a number of programs that benefit low-income pet owners with low-cost spay and neuter opportunities and a low-cost food pantry. Her vision and efforts along with the support of numerous volunteers and agencies continue to make these programs a possibility.

An RV was recently donated to be converted to the wellness unit by the Glenda Taylor Delawder Charitable Trust.

“I see this as the next step to help all these people who care about their pets and want to take care of them,” said Nadzan.

She explained that if these pet owners do not receive the help they need to care for their pets, then the pets end up at the shelter, costing taxpayers money and separating pets from their families.

“That doesn’t serve anybody,” she said. “This is just another piece of that puzzle to keep pets alive, healthy and with their families who love them,” she said.

Nadzan understands that while it is important for pets to regularly visit the veterinarian, financial hardship can put that responsibility on the back burner for many pet owners.

The mobile unit will make regularly scheduled visits to the areas with the greatest need. She said each week, they will spend one or two days in a community where pet owners can bring their pets to receive low-cost vaccinations; testing for heartworm and feline immunodeficiency virus; prevention for heartworm, fleas, ticks and worms; and preventative care like ear cleaning and treatment for minor skin irritation. They will not perform X-rays, surgeries, or any procedures that require anesthesia and will not spay or neuter.

“This is not a full-service vet clinic,” she said.

She does not believe it will not negatively impact veterinarians’ business because many of these people simply aren’t visiting the vet. Many, when faced with the decision of going to the vet and incurring a bill they can’t pay or surrendering the pet to the shelter end up surrendering the pet.

Nadzan explained that about five years ago, she received a call from a man who was in tears because his dog had an ear infection that was worsening, but he couldn’t afford to take the dog to the veterinarian. Nadzan said he knew it was getting worse and felt his only option was to take the dog to the shelter to be euthanized.

“So it’s been in my mind for about four or five years to have this clinic,” Nadzan said. “If he could have had the ears cleaned and had a wellness checkup, he wouldn’t have been faced with killing his friend over an ear infection.”

She said many families struggle with similar decisions when their annual income is $25,000 or less.

“It’s not because they don’t care, it’s because they simply can’t afford it,” she said. “The wellness care unit is probably one of the most common requests we hear.”

However, staffing and maintaining the unit will not be cheap. Nadzan said they are beginning to apply for grants, but they will need community support.

One family, whose dog BooBoo had a series of medical issues and subsequent expenses. Nadzan said they were fortunate they could afford the cost of those bills, but they were also generous in recognizing that many others cannot. They made a donation to ETSN which established the BooBoo Fund. Money donated to this fund goes specifically to funding the mobile wellness unit, Nadzan said.

She said to deliver services one to two days weekly to Stoney Creek, Roan Mountain, Hampton, Elizabethton, Watauga and other locations, she believes the annual operating expense will be $40-60,000. Any leftover funding, she said, could potentially be used to help cover veterinary expenses for pet owners.

She will be searching for a veterinarian to which pets may be referred if they are in need of operation or more serious care.

The mobile unit may be operational as early as late July, she said.

“Once we renovate, stock and staff it, we can start providing wellness check-ups for pets of low-income families,” she said.

She said supporting this cause benefits the whole community, and it is easy to donate.

Those interested in financially supporting the clinic may donate to the BooBoo Fund by sending checks to ETSN at P.O. Box 2171, Elizabethton, Tenn., 37644. They may also donate by cash or check at Big John’s Closeouts in Elizabethton, or at 3B’s Thrift Shop in Hampton or on PayPal on the website below. A tab on the website that says “Support us” has a link to the BooBoo Fund, in which all donations will support the mobile unit and preventative pet care for low income families.

For more information about ETSN, visit www.etnspay-neuter.org.