On a cold January day, the South Suburban Humane Society, a 501(c)3 organization in Chicago Heights, IL, received an urgent call from a pet owner. Her dog, Stan, couldn’t walk and needed medical attention. As it was a busy day, the only people available to go to the dog’s aid were the organization’s CEO and Shelter Manager. The distressed pet owner explained that Stan had suffered a leg injury several months prior, but as she had lost her job, she had no resources to treat him. Stan needed veterinary attention and they rushed him to Forest South Animal Hospital, at the time a division of Coyne Veterinary Services.
Upon examination, it was clear that what was once likely a minor injury had become a massive infection that had invaded his bones. He was in terrible pain and suffering and the decision was made to humanely euthanize him. As the SSHS staff sat on the floor of the hospital crying tears over a dog they had just met, they vowed that no more pets in the south suburban community would suffer because of a lack of access to affordable veterinary care.
Keeping Families Together
There are hundreds of stories that have emerged since our opening, but one stands out in the minds of the SSHS staff. Late one afternoon, a woman ran into the shelter carrying her Chihuahua wrapped in blankets. From her sobbing staff gathered that the dog was ill and that the woman didn’t have the money that another veterinarian told her would be necessary for examining the dog. Staff told her about the SSLCVSC and she started crying even more as she realized that she could afford to keep her beloved pet. She returned to the shelter a few days later with her now-healthy dog who had surgery for his obstruction, and tearfully thanked the staff for giving her the opportunity to keep her baby.
The SSLCVSC partnership is a model that could be replicated across the country as nonprofits and veterinarians continue to think outside the box for their communities. In fact, organizations from Chicago to California have begun to reach out for information as they explore similar clinic models. South Suburban Low-Cost Veterinary Services is the ultimate example of the best of both worlds coming together to further the mission of saving pets and the people who love them.
Serving a Major Need in Our Community
Dr. John Coyne has long been a partner and friend to the SSHS and naturally, they reached out to him first. “Doc,” as he is affectionately known, listened to the staff talk about the plight of low-income pet parents and the need for affordable, quality veterinary care. Staff knew access to a low-cost clinic would reduce shelter intake, reduce euthanasia, and improve the quality of life for pets in the south suburban communities. Without hesitation, he agreed that the need was significant and the idea of a unique, first-of-its-kind partnership between a non-profit and for-profit veterinarian was born.
The South Suburban Low-Cost Veterinary Services Clinic, LLC opened its doors on November 3, 2015. From the beginning of the planning stages, Dr. Coyne made it clear that he wanted the SSLCVSC to look beautiful and to provide high-quality, low-cost care. Pet parents are assured, not only by the aesthetics but by the quality of staff interactions, that their pets are in good hands.
Within minutes of our doors opening, the first client walked through and business has steadily built to its present nonstop level. Since opening, SSHS has tracked more than 1,000 pets whose admission to the shelter has been prevented because their owners had access to veterinary care. And without a doubt, we know that that number is higher than the data demonstrates. From broken legs to parvovirus to diabetes and all conditions in between, the SSLCVSC helps pet owners day in and day out. Area veterinarians, animal control facilities, rescue groups, and other shelters all refer pet parents to the clinic as it has become a trusted resource throughout the Chicago Southland and Northwest Indiana.