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SPCA Tampa Bay brings jobs, pet care to St. Pete

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The SPCA Tampa Bay is coming down the homestretch to opening its first satellite vet center — an endeavor that will bring 40 new jobs to the county and make pet care more convenient for some in St. Petersburg.

The veterinary center, scheduled to open in October, is the result of a planning process that began four years ago, Martha Boden, the CEO of SPCA Tampa Bay said. The total cost thus far ranges around $3 million — a bit less than $1 million for the property, 3250 5th Ave. N., a former orthopedist’s office, and $2 million to gut and renovate the building.

What’s been created is a 10,000-square-foot full service veterinary clinic for small animals (no horses, sheep or goats) with eight exam rooms, five surgery tables, a pharmacy, and other rooms set aside for critical care, isolation areas to prevent contagion and for feral cats awaiting neutering. The building also has a 2,500-square-foot second floor that will remain unfinished but could be used in the future for training and other pet care activities.

The clinic will employ seven full-time veterinarians. Each vet will have two and a half veterinary technicians to support their work. In addition, the center will also employ administrative staff.

Once it’s open, the center will essentially run as two practices, said Dr. Rizal Lopez, the senior director of veterinary services. One will be devoted to spaying and neutering. The other, a full-service traditional veterinary hospital.

By doing a volume business of spaying and neutering, prices are expected to be low — $40 to $45 for cats; $70-$80 for dogs, Boden said. But the prices in the regular clinic will be at about market rate. However, the SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center will be able to do what many vets with small practices are unable to do — set payment plans for those who could not afford more expensive procedures if they have to be paid in full at one time.

The goal, Boden said, is to help keep families and their pets together. Making good vet care more accessible is one big part of that.

On the other hand, she said, the SPCA doesn’t want other vets to lose clients by undercutting their prices. If someone who has a regular veterinarian brings a pet to the clinic, the SPCA will send the treatment records to the regular vet if that’s what the owner desires.

Boden said planning for the clinic began in 2012. The thought was to make pet medical care more accessible. The agency decided to locate in St. Pete because that’s originally where it was founded 75 years ago and, because there are few vets near the new location. It seemed like a good way to make it easier for some in St. Pete to get their pets to a vet.

The fees, she said, will be used not only to run the center but also to fund other SPCA projects —in other words, to “Paw It Forward.”

Once it’s opened in mid- to late October, the hours will be 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

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