“Having to drive to Asheville is obviously, in an emergency situation, very taxing,” said Suzanne Cianciulli, practice manger at Junaluska. “It’s just something the community needs and has been asking for.”
The clinic, which will be open to all pet owners, regardless of who their regular vet is, will open sometime in 2016. Beyond that, Junaluska has nailed down few details.
“It’s one of those where we’re still trying to muddle through some of the plans,” Cianciulli said.
The clinic will be housed within Junaluska’s existing building, so no construction will be necessary. The main hurdle to overcome is deciding how many more veterinarians the hospital will need to hire and then finding the right people to fill those positions.
“It’s not just about hiring any veterinarian,” Cianciulli said. “It’s about hiring the right one. We want to continue the day practice feel into the clinic.”
While some practices in the mountains do have Saturday hours and there are vets who give their personal contact information to clients in case of emergency, the only 24-hour animal clinic in Western North Carolina is Regional Emergency Animal Care Hospital in Asheville. The length of the trip can be prohibitive, and it can be hard regardless when the driver is preoccupied worrying about a sick pet. And sometimes, the length of the trip can negatively impact the pet’s health outcome.
Fiona Norton, a board member of the WNC Dog Fanciers Association who lives in Waynesville, said she could have used a 24-hour clinic when a young dog she used to own needed emergency care. The pup eventually died.
“Had the hospital been closer, it would have been more convenient for the dog’s sake, not to mention the owner’s sake,” she said.