Ken Niedziela is the editor of Today’s Veterinary Business. He is a longtime journalist and editor who started his professional career at The Blade newspaper in Toledo, Ohio, before he moved to Southern California for an array of assignments at The Orange County Register. He entered magazine journalism in 2008 as managing editor of Veterinary Practice News and later as special projects editor and news editor at Pet Product News International. He was editor of Veterinary Practice News until January 2017, when he joined the North American Veterinary Community to help launch Today’s Veterinary Business. The Rochester, New York, native earned his journalism degree from Michigan State University. He lives in San Clemente, California, with his wife, Deanne.Read Articles Written by Ken Niedziela
Veterinarians across the Houston area are assessing damage to their hospitals — or counting themselves lucky — in the days after Hurricane Harvey carved a deadly path through southern Texas.
Amy Garrou, DVM, DABVP, who practices at Memorial-610 Hospital for Animals in Houston’s Memorial Close neighborhood, reported minimal damage to the property.
“I know there are many that are not as fortunate,” Dr. Garrou said. “There are several referral hospitals in the area that are completely shut down and have infrastructure with severe damage.”
Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists, which is featured on the reality-TV show “Animal ER,” used its website and Facebook page to announce bad news.
“We have sustained significant damage to our 1111 West Loop South location due to Harvey,” the postings stated. “As you can imagine, we are still evaluating the extent of the damage and are preparing for the additional water expected to come our way.
“We are committed to keeping you updated and will use our Facebook page for general updates.”
Crossroads Veterinary Clinic, southwest of Houston in the city of Victoria, reopened Aug. 30, but direct phone service remained out.
“We … have our main line forwarded to a cell phone,” a Facebook post stated. “So please be patient with us. If you get a busy signal or voicemail recording, call back.”
Champions Forest Animal Clinic used Facebook to report “minor water damage due to roof leaks.”
“Thankful nonetheless!” the hospital added. “We want all our clients to know we will be in the office tomorrow, Wed 8/30, with limited staff.”
Staffing was a problem at other hospitals.
West Alabama Animal Clinic, near midtown Houston, reopened Aug. 29 “with limited staff, but we can help you if you need it. Please call with any questions.”
The hospital was serving people, too, after volunteering to be a drop-off spot for donations such as pillows, baby food and toiletries.
West Houston Veterinary Medical Associates remained closed Aug. 30.
“With many of the roads still under water, we are still unable to get medical staff here safely to open for business,” according to the hospital’s Facebook page. “WHVMA will be closed until further notice.”
West Houston assured clients that “all boarding pets are safe, comfortable and are being well cared for. We have kennel staff here that are making sure the animals are safe.”
Cypress Falls Animal Hospital, northwest of Houston, applauded its employees and clients.
“Thank you to Cristina, who has been working endless hours coordinating communications between our clinic and the community,” a Facebook post stated Aug. 30. “Thank you to Tanya, Pat, Hayley, Tessa and Dr. Edwards for volunteering to come in today even though you have your own set of circumstances. Thank you to Carol, Cathy and Dr. Watts for making every effort to be here when you are surrounded by water, and can’t. And thank you to the best clients in the world for pouring in our front door with donations this morning so that we can reach back out to our community.”
Amid horrible weather conditions Aug. 28, Village Veterinary Clinic in Hedwig Village, west of Houston, announced that it would be closed until further notice. Clients were advised on Facebook that hospital co-owner Seth Landry, DVM, was “going to the clinic twice daily to care for our boarders.”
Tens of thousands of homes were reportedly damaged or destroyed by hurricane winds and floodwaters. Memorial-610’s chief of staff, Stephen Pittenger, DVM, DABVP, said that while the hospital was “dry and functional other than no phones and internet,” his personal situation wasn’t so good.
“I am a bit overwhelmed at the moment, dealing with flooding issues at my house,” he said in an email.
Emily Gaugh, DVM, MPH, president of the Harris County Veterinary Medical Association, was dealing with floodwaters at her house, too.
“Being directly in the county hit, I have been isolated in my home due to flooding until today and am just getting more active,” Dr. Gaugh said.
A sampling of hospital Facebook pages showed that many clinics planned to reopen Aug. 31 or Sept. 1.
“Our goal is to open for your fur baby’s care Thursday [Aug. 31] bright and early,” My Family Vet reported.
Memorial Cat Hospital predicted a Sept. 1 opening.
“We are going to try to reopen Friday,” its Facebook page stated. “The clinic is dry and functional, but some/most of our employees are still trapped in their neighborhoods and at least one is in a shelter.”
North Durham Animal Hospital was looking on the bright side when it posted: “Isn’t the sun beautiful?! We officially reopen tomorrow (08/31).”
The Lucky Few
Some hospitals emerged unscathed from Hurricane Harvey.
Sunset Boulevard Animal Clinic reported: “Hello, Houston. Just a quick check-in to let everyone know that the clinic is under no threat of flooding. All of the pets here are doing great, dry and safe. We are open to see emergencies, as we are working with only very few staff.”
Brittmoore Animal Hospital reported that it was “doing good so far.”
“As of this morning [Aug. 28], we had a report that Brittmoore … was not underwater, nor did it appear that it had been under water,” according to a Facebook post. However, getting patients in the door was a problem “due to the flooding in our area,” so Brittmoore was closed “until further notice.”
Garza Veterinary Clinic was open Aug. 30 and invited clients to bring in any “sick or injured pet that needs immediate care.”
“Our phone lines are down,” the Facebook post added. “Comcast is working on it. Hope to have phone lines up and running soon!”
VCA Ashford Animal Hospital expected to reopen Aug. 31 but advised clients to “please call before coming into our facility as we may have abbreviated hours.”
Helping the Less Fortunate
Kleinbrook Animal Hospital, on Houston’s northern side, took a charitable tone in its Facebook announcement.
“This past weekend has brought immense heartache to our community, yet a sense of togetherness,” Kleinbrook stated. “We want to help in any way we can.
“For those who had to evacuate your homes due to the flood, we want to offer a free exam to make sure your pet is OK after their frightening experience. If you need us to board your pet for an extended period while you try to rebuild, we are also offering 50% off boarding.
“We will also be accepting any pet donations to take to our community shelters. … Please keep us updated about your pet. We love and worry about them, too.”