Free Vet Clinic Forced To Turn Patients Away

SPOKANE — With more layoffs and economic uncertainty forcing families to tighten their belts, pet care is becoming a struggle for many families trying to get by.

While the economy is taking it’s toll on pet owners, those on the other side of the table are taking a hit as well. One local free pet clinic is having to turn people away.

Doctor Cathy Tucker spends her Wednesday’s at the Mission Free Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Tucker and four volunteers look over pets in the one-room clinic, providing care for pet owners who can’t always afford it.

“It’s close quarters but it works,” said Dr. Tucker.

They don’t have much to work with but every week, they manage to squeeze in 15 patients. Pet owners wait anxiously outside hoping to get an appointment.

“We got here an hour-and-a-half early and they were already lined up,” said one customer who identified himself as “David”.

The Mission Free Veterinary Clinic offers basic vaccinations, neutering of male cats, and treatment of minor infections and wounds.

“This clinic is very important because she helps you for a very low cost or for free,” said Penny Chenoweth about Dr. Tucker and the clinic.

Chenoweth and her friend “David” came with their cat Orange. A trip to the emergency vet a few months back was just something they couldn’t afford.

“It was $85 just to see him and we just didn’t have the money,” said David.

For 11 years, Dr. Tucker has volunteered her vet skills. The free clinic accepts donations but since October 2008 it’s seen a significant drop in donations from those bringing in their pets.

Instead of money, some are trading their possessions for vet care, one customer gave a bracelet in exchange for services.

“They give us $5 or $10, or even just a couple of dollars and then all of a sudden we got zero money for week after week,” said Dr. Tucker.

Across town at the Spokane Humane Society a similar story is playing out. People are leaving their pets at the shelter because they can no longer afford to take care of them.

The Humane Society worries that more pets could be abandoned because of the current financial crisis.

“Nationally about five million to seven million animals enter a shelter a year and national numbers indicate that we can expect a 10 to 20 percent increase,” said Dave Richardson with the Spokane Chapter of the National Humane Society.

So far the Mission Free clinic has been able to keep its doors open, helping families and their four-legged friends. But limited resources means not everyone can be seen.

“We’re seeing more people, because we’re turning away more people,” said Dr. Tucker.

The Mission Free Veterinary Clinic is open every Wednesday from 12:30 to 2:00 in the evening. You can find it behind the Union Gospel Mission.

If you’d like to help out the clinic with donations you can call them at 535-8510.