“Take care of pets and they’ll take care of you.” ~Dr. Dale Kaplan-Stein, veterinarian and founder of St. Francis Pet Care Clinic in Gainesville, Florida.
Founded in 2007, the nonprofit St. Francis Pet Care Clinic opened its doors with the goal of providing low-cost spay and neuter services as well as other veterinary services for underserved and financially burdened pet owners in the area. In addition to veterinary care for pets, Dr. Kaplan-Stein and her staff educate pet owners on how to care for their pets, including safety tips, how to trim nails, and more.
Running the St. Francis Pet Care Clinic is often more challenging for Dr. Kaplan-Stein than when she owned two private veterinary practices, something she did for 35 years prior to opening the nonprofit. To help clients feel welcome, she tries to develop relationships with them, and she trains her office staff and volunteers to do the same. It’s also important to Dr. Kaplan-Stein to be understanding of each client’s needs and individual situation; people want to do what’s right for their pets, but they don’t always know how.
Dependent on Resources
The clinic is able to keep costs low for clients due to volunteer veterinarians and veterinary students who offer services there. St. Francis receives donations from hospitals and has also received grant funds from Florida Animal Friend, which provides spay and neuter grants to veterinary clinics and similar organizations throughout Florida.
The Florida Animal Friend grant has been wonderful for St. Francis Pet Care Clinic. Funding has allowed the clinic to offer a $35 exam for pets as well as no-cost spay or neuter surgery, free vaccinations, and comprehensive pet care. Without this grant, many clients served by the clinic would not be able to spay or neuter their pet, which could lead to increased pet overpopulation in Florida.
On another level, the grant allows St. Francis to provide pets and their owners with compassion so pet parents return to the clinic when needed instead of foregoing care. Dr. Kaplan-Stein understands that all pets want is care, love, and food, and in return, they give their owners a lifetime of friendship and unconditional love. She believes all pet owners, not just a select few, should have access to the care their pet needs to stay healthy. With help from Florida Animal Friend, St. Francis is able to provide just that.
The Importance of Low-Cost Spay and Neuter Programs
Low-cost spay and neuter programs are essential. Not only do these programs help keep pets healthy, but they also help prevent pet overpopulation. Pets that are not spayed or neutered can have unexpected litters of kittens or puppies that the pet’s owners are unprepared for. Each year, countless homeless cats and dogs are brought to shelters across the state to await adoptive families.
Nonprofits like Florida Animal Friend offer grant funding to organizations like St. Francis Pet Care Clinic so they can provide low-cost or no-cost spay and neuter assistance programs for adopted pets, homeless pets, and other pets in need. Without it, Dr. Kaplan-Stein stresses that many animals would go untreated.
For other clinics thinking of offering low-cost spay and neuter assistance programs, patience and education are quite important. She notes it’s a completely different way of practicing veterinary care: While some private practices offer low-cost spay and neuter services on designated days with the support of volunteers, other clinics may decide to offer low-cost programs full-time. Community support and networking is key.
For those who want to help St. Francis Pet Care Clinic in its mission to offer low-cost pet care to those in need, there are several ways to lend support. Veterinarians can offer their services as a volunteer and community members can offer time or in-kind donations. You can support low-cost spay and neuter programs like St. Francis and others in Florida by purchasing a Florida Animal Friend specialty license plate. If you operate at a clinic or practice and offer low-cost spay/neuter services, please apply for a grant!