Mobile Veterinary Clinic Offers Free Services

PAWS Chicago's GusMobile offers free veterinary services. Photo credit: The New York Times / Bonnie Trafelet for Chicago News Cooperativ

(VETERINARY SERVICES) ILLINOIS — In an effort to combat the pet overpopulation problem, PAWS Chicago started the GusMobile. This veterinary clinic on wheels offers low-cost and free spay/neuter services and vaccinations for pets to people who cannot afford them. Thanks to services like those offered by the GusMobile, the number of feral cats and dogs has steadily decreased over the years. We applaud the team of veterinarians and hope for the best in years to come. Read on for more information about the GusMobile. — Global Animal
PAWS Chicago’s GusMobile offers free veterinary services. Photo credit: The New York Times / Bonnie Trafelet for Chicago News Cooperative

The New York Times, Bridget O’Shea

Besides the bleak landscape of boarded-up houses and empty lots, residents of economically struggling Chicago neighborhoods must contend with thousands of stray pets.

The feral dogs and cats roam neighborhoods throughout the city looking for food and shelter. Some lucky ones may be candidates for adoption; others are subject to impoundment or even euthanasia.

Pet overpopulation is a particular problem in areas where residents have trouble paying for veterinary care.

Last year, the city took in about 17,500 dogs and cats, according to Brad Powers, assistant to the executive director at Chicago’s Animal Care and Control. He said most of the stray cats came from the South and Southwest Sides and most of the stray dogs from the West Side.

Now a team of veterinarians has begun to visit those low-income neighborhoods every Sunday to lessen the financial burden on pet owners and combat the proliferation of abandoned animals. The GusMobile, started by PAWS Chicago, a no-kill humane organization, is a veterinary clinic inside a state-of-the-art van. A doctor spays, neuters and administers vaccinations to dogs and cats free of charge to clients who receive Medicaid.

“So when you’re loading your car with groceries, someone’s having a surgery,” said Paula Fasseas, founder of PAWS Chicago, a nonprofit in Lincoln Park that also operates a free and low-cost clinic in Little Village.

After surgery, the animals are given time to recover in the van’s cages and are monitored for side effects from the anesthesia. The mobile clinic, the only one of its kind in the city, has been in operation since May.

“There’s more domestic animals in the city than people to take care of them,” said Mr. Powers. “I think it’s a wonderful service that PAWS offers.” He said that thanks to free and low-cost spaying and neutering services, the number of stray pets has dropped steadily in recent years.

On a recent stormy Sunday morning, four patient dog owners were lined up outside the GusMobile in a shopping center parking lot. Currently working in the Roseland neighborhood on the Far South Side, the mobile unit operators intend to visit other areas where residents cannot afford veterinary services.

“There are plenty of stray cats around my neighborhood,” said Marcella Smith, who was waiting for her cat to have surgery in Roseland. She said she had heard about the GusMobile from her neighbor.

Kathy Krmpotich, a South Side resident who was waiting for her three cats to undergo surgery, said she fed the many feral animals in her neighborhood.

“I’m the crazy nut lady on the block who feeds the stray cats,” Ms. Krmpotich said.

Leslie Gellatly, a Wauconda veterinarian, regularly staffs the van. “Everyone loves animals,” she said as she cleaned off a metal exam table. “If they know the problem, they’ll get involved.”

Jessica Von Waldau, another veterinarian, said she performed surgeries at a much faster pace than was usual in private practice. “I used to see 10 patients a day; now it feels more like 50,” she said, but added that the workload was not a problem.

“Actually, we kind of have fun here,” she said.

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