Deerfield veterinary hospital honored for handicapped services
Dr Claire Weigand is assisted by veterinary assistant Tracey Nowers, left, and Jess Rickevicius, as she gives an ultrasound to Allie, a Golden Retriever, at the emergency veterinary clinic in South Deerfield.
SOUTH DEERFIELD — Outside the Veterinary Emergency and Speciality Hospital in South Deerfield, a wide ramp leads to powered double doors. At the front desk, a portion of the counter is lowered and chairs are not stuck to the floor. Inside, two bathrooms lined with grab rails are designed wide enough for wheelchairs to maneuver.
The designs are an effort by the hospital to be accessible to all of its clients, including its pet owners with special needs who bring their service dogs for treatment.
The area’s only locally owned 24-hour emergency and specialty veterinary hospital has been honored by the Stavros Center for Independent Living. The annual awards are given to individuals and businesses that have provided outstanding services to the disability community of the Pioneer Valley.
The hospital was one of three local organizations to receive an Access Award at an event last week at the Log Cabin restaurant in Holyoke. Also receiving recognition is the Farm Table restaurant at Kringle Candle in Bernardston and the late Raymond J. Smith, long-time president of Ray’s Van Service in Gill.
The award came as a surprise to coowners Brenda Sayler, CEO, and Dr. Erika Mueller, the chief of medicine. An unknown client had nominated the hospital.
“It means a lot that a client nominated us. You know you’re doing a good job,” Sayler said.
For years, Mueller had been practicing emergency veterinary medicine until several local veterinarians had contacted her about opening an emergency facility for pets. When she met Sayler through a mutual acquaintance, the hospital began to take shape. Mueller would provide the medical expertise, while Sayler, who had been working in Boston for State Street Corp, an international financial services company, would serve as the business mind.
In 2006, the 6,000-square-foot hospital opened at 141 Greenfield Road in South Deerfield, becoming a 24-hour emergency medical facility for pets. It has two large surgical suites, a dedicated ICU ward, an isolation ward, an in-house diagnostic lab, a digital X-ray and ultrasound machine, laparoscopy and endoscopy machine.
When Mueller and Salyer opened the hospital, they sought to make it accessible for clients who need service pets. It has an wide outside ramp leading to double doors, a lower counter inside designed so people who use wheelchairs can sign paperwork easily, and two wide bathrooms with a large radius to accommodate wheelchairs. Also, the exam rooms have doors as wide as 42 inches, surpassing the usual 36 inches.
“Some of our pet owners have service dogs. It was important for them to be able to bring their pets here for treatment,” Salyer said.
Six years later the hospital has grown from 15 employees to 40 employees.
The hospital has had over 60,000 patient visits since opening with clients coming from Western Mass., New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and New York.