Humane Society Naples' mobile clinic serves Everglades City in first outreach mission

"What we’re finding is that there are very often cases where there’s a loved, wanted animal in a happy home and they just need a little help with something."

Andrew Atkins
Naples Daily News

At 10:30 a.m. on a Wednesday in April, a pawful of pets and their owners meandered into the Everglades Community Church’s parking lot, including Jackson Murray, all barks and wagging broom of a tail. 

A team of masked technicians onboard the Paige Conery Mobile Veterinary Clinic, a blue and white truck emblazoned with the Humane Society Naples logo, ferried pets in and out for their examinations and treatments while some pets, dropped off by their owners, waited in the air-conditioned Paws Around Town truck nearby. 

If it wasn’t for the Humane Society Naples’ mobile clinic in Everglades City, Jackson Murray would need to travel about 30 miles to the nearest veterinarian. 

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To be clear, Jackson Murray is Chokoloskee resident Norman Tabor’s dog, who turned one year old in January. 

“It’s convenient,” Tabor said, and more affordable than what he would spend if he drove to a veterinarian in Naples.

The shelter began offering the low-cost clinic in February, about a year after the intended launch due to the pandemic, according to Executive Director Sarah Baeckler Davis.

“Our doors are open for those who need us, but what we’re finding is that there are very often cases where there’s a loved, wanted animal in a happy home and they just need a little help with something,” Davis said. 

The organization sends the bus south to Everglades City every Wednesday, parking outside the Everglades Community Church. It treats dogs, cats and pocket pets like ferrets and rabbits for residents of Everglades City, Chokoloskee, Copeland, Plantation, Ochopee and Jerome. The clinic focuses on residents of these communities but is not exclusive to them. 

Clients pay a $10 booking fee, and the staff works with them to offer low-cost services based on what they can afford to pay, Davis said, and in a location where there are few other options except to travel for pet care. 

“We see for sure that people consider pets as parts of their family, and we don’t want people to ever have to choose between different members of their family and where resources can go,” she said. “If it’s a question of need and someone is in that position, we are thrilled and honored to support that member of their family.” 

Dr. Sinyee Fok, left, and vet tech Jenny Demello treat "Roxy", owned by Everglades City resident Lee Kidder, with heart worm medication,  Wednesday, April 7, 2021, at a mobile veterinarian clinic run by The Humane Society of Naples in Everglades City.

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Meredith McLean, outreach manager for the Society, said the clinic provides vaccinations, heartworm testing and medication as well as a pet food pantry and an occasional spay/neuter clinic. 

The clinic has a surgery suite and can handle diagnostic testing including X-rays and basic blood work.

The mobile program's presence is possible through community partnerships with groups including the Everglades Community Church. Anne Mitchell, a board member for the church, said the clinic enhances the food pantry that operates out of the church. 

“It’s not a wealthy community,” she said. “So many of these people, their pets are so important to them even when they don’t have food to feed themselves.” 

Everglades City is the mobile clinic’s first assignment. The goal is to eventually have two mobile clinics dispatched in the county five days a week, Davis said. 

Talks in December led to organizing the clinic as a way to serve rural residents for whom pet healthcare may not necessarily be affordable, McLean said. The clinic sees between 15-20 pets a day. 

Lisa Antunes, Paws Around Town coordinator, said that without affordable or accessible healthcare, owners could return the animals to a shelter so the pet survives. 

“We want to help you keep that animal in a good home,” she said. 

Andrew Atkins writes about food and features for the Naples Daily News. Contact him via email at andrew.atkins@naplesnews.com. To support work like Andrew's, please consider subscribing: https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/