When pets need medical care but their owners don't have much money, options have been limited. Too often, the pets' illnesses or injuries end up going untreated.
The Humane Society of Tampa Bay hopes to change that by building a clinic that will offer veterinary services at affordable prices.
"Right now, the only low-cost veterinary care that's available is spaying and neutering," said Sherry Silk, the executive director of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. "What we want to do is offer the full range of veterinary services at reduced prices."
But the Humane Society needs a whole lot of money before it can offer those services to pet owners who don't have much of their own.
The organization recently bought a large vacant building adjacent to its headquarters at 3607 N Armenia Ave., just south of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The building is about 8,000 square feet, more than enough for the full-service veterinary clinic the Humane Society envisions. Silk estimates that transforming the former retail space into a veterinary clinic will cost about $3 million.
The organization's fundraising efforts got a big boost in March when a local couple, Bob and Cathy Smith, donated a quarter of a million dollars. The Smiths gave the money in the name of their friend Alexis Saunders, who died from cancer on March 7 at age 34.
Saunders loved animals and was known at the Humane Society for rescuing unwanted, injured pets, including several that had been abused and abandoned in her Tampa Heights neighborhood. She would often care for them herself and find homes for them. But as her cancer progressed, she was unable to keep doing that. So she brought several animals to the Humane Society.
If enough other people make donations in Saunders' name, Silk said, the new clinic will be called the Alexis Saunders Animal Health Center. The Humane Society has set a goal of $1 million in donations to the Alexis Saunders Memorial Fund. If donors reach that goal, the organization will name the clinic after Saunders, Silk said.
The plan is for the center to offer everything from vaccinations to surgery at significantly reduced prices.
Too often, Silk said, money problems force people to forgo veterinary services, which can lead to prolonged suffering, illness or even death. In low-income areas, epidemics can result if a lot of people can't get pets vaccinated or treated for communicable diseases. Any Hillsborough County pet owner will be welcome to use the center's services, Silk said.
To make a donation to the Alexis Saunders Animal Health Center, visit the Humane Society of Tampa Bay's donation Web site, humanesocietytampa.org/donate/make-donation.
Marty Clear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.