Colin Yaccarino | Photo Editor
More than half of millennials have a member of the family that might be a little hairier, louder or fluffier than its human counterpart.
Despite the love and affection many have for their pets, members of the Tulane community say there is a lack of access to affordable veterinary care.
Tulane senior Katie Parks found how expensive such care can be when she took her cat for a routine checkup at a local veterinary clinic. Parks paid close to $400 for those services and later paid another $200 for medical services when her cat jumped from the top floor of her house.
“I definitely do shy away from taking [my cat] to the vet when she might need help because it is so expensive,” Parks said.
Loyola University New Orleans junior Becca Miller owns two kittens, both less than a year old, that have not yet been spayed, neutered or vaccinated. For her, ensuring the health of her kittens will mean sacrificing time and money that she feels she does not have as a full-time student.
“If something were to happen to them, I don’t exactly have an easy way to take care of them since everywhere is very far away,” Miller said.
To make affordable animal care more accessible, Tulane professor Copey Pulitzer opened the Low Cost Animal Medical Center on March 15 at 4300 Washington Ave.
Less than two miles away from Tulane’s Uptown campus, the center provides quality care for cats and dogs at reduced rates.
While the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that pet owners spend an average of $227 each year on medical services for a dog, the Low Cost Animal Medical Center offers annual dog visits for $90 that include a variety of services including a heartworm test, a microscopic fecal exam, vaccines and a general physical.
New puppy visits cost $45 and annual cat visits cost $70, prices that are also more affordable than what average pet owners may spend on animal care.
Pulitzer said he believes the medical center’s low costs will encourage pet owners who would otherwise be unable to afford veterinary costs to bring in their pets for the care they need. Pet owners such as Parks agree that lower costs may make the pursuit of veterinary care more accessible.
“Having access to a $70 visit for [my cat] would seriously be amazing and so helpful,” Parks said.
Seventy-five percent of the nearly 95,000 cats and dogs within a three-mile radius of the center have never been to an animal clinic, and around 37 percent of those pets are not spayed or neutered.
Pet owners who cannot afford veterinary care may feel forced to release their pets to the streets or a local shelter. According to the center, Orleans and Jefferson Parish shelters euthanize nearly half of animals they take in with sick animals especially likely to be killed.
Pulitzer hopes access to affordable veterinary care will keep cats and dogs out of shelters and in homes.
“There will be people that did not think they could afford to take care of a sick animal who, instead of relinquishing it to a shelter, will keep it in the home,” Pulitzer said.
Aside from the benefits to pets and their owners, Pulitzer hopes the center’s services will spur economic development around a neighborhood where at least a quarter of its residents live at or below the poverty level.
The Low Cost Animal Medical Center also hopes to connect with the community through its partnership with Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business.
Tulane Professor of Practice Ashley Nelson, a board member at the center, is challenging students in her management communication course “Social Media” to find ways to apply the marketing and communications skills they have learned in class to the center.
Additionally, Anu Varadharajan, associate director of the Master of Accounting Program, is organizing an experiential learning class beginning in June. Two or three auditing students will examine the center’s official documents to ensure all supplies are accounted for and the appropriate checks and balances are in place.
“… Learning in the classroom is one thing,” Varadharajan said. “Going out into the real world and really applying it can be something completely different.”
Pulitzer feels that the center is an important step in furthering Tulane’s philanthropic commitment to the community while also helping prepare students for careers in their desired fields.
“Tulane University has always stressed how important it is to give back to our community, and our efforts fulfill this philosophy of philanthropy while also lending a hands-on experience to our students.”
The medical center is open from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m.-noon Saturday. For more information or to make an appointment, call (504) 444-1124 or visit the center’s website.