Celebrating 40 years of both big and small animal care

Conan de Vries


Celebrating 40 years of both big and small animal care

PRESCOTT- Anybody who has ever owned a pet or maintained a farm animal knows just how important top-quality veterinary care can be, and for the past 40 years, farmers and animal lovers alike have found just such care at the Prescott Animal Hospital.

An open house last Saturday gave the hospital's veterinarians, technicians and front office personnel a chance to celebrate four decades in business and to express their gratitude to those who have made it possible - namely those clients who, over the years, have entrusted to them the health and lives of some beloved and very important creatures.

"It's a good opportunity to say thank you to the people who have supported us," said veterinary technician Carla Coville, who is also the large animal practice manager and a 22-year veteran of the Prescott Animal Hospital.

The hospital now employs 25 people, including nine veterinarians, and is one of the most well-respected institutions in the region, taking referrals, particularly in cases involving farm animals, from clients and other hospitals throughout Eastern Ontario. But it wasn't always that way.

The Prescott Animal Hospital, now located just north of town on County Road 18, started out as the River Road Animal Hospital, a one-man operation located along County Road 2 between Cardinal and Johnstown. That practice was begun in 1962 by Dr. Harold Johnston. He then sold the practice in 1976 to husband and wife veterinarians Jerome Billett and Janice Harrower. It was under their guidance that the Prescott Animal Hospital grew in both size and esteem.

The couple moved the hospital into a purpose-built facility at its present location in 1985, and slowly the business grew as its reputation spread and its roster of clients got longer and longer. Then in 2012, it was time for a major expansion. The hospital was doubled in size to include one of the best-equipped large animal facilities in this part of the province and to better accommodate all kinds of animals and their needs.

Billett and Harrower have since retired from the business, but left the Prescott Animal Hospital in most trustworthy hands. The business is now co-owned by Drs. John Donovan, Alexandra Knoepfli, Henry Ceelen and Ken Newman.

Of course, as much care and compassion as the vets and their team show to the animals that come through the door, they give to the people at the other end of the leash, and the 40th anniversary celebration last Saturday was as much about the relationships the hospital has established over the years as it was about the the number of injections given or stitches sewn within its walls.

"The people who are coming in today are either new to us and want to see the facility or they're already part of the family," said business manager Shelley Vanderschuit.

Indeed, many clients stopped by to offer their congratulations and to say thank you to the hospital staff for being there when their animals most needed them.

"It's a great place," said Anita Wilkens, who has brought many of her cats and dogs to the hospital over the years, for both treatment and a compassionate passing. "We've had some very happy times and some sad times, but always good times."

Though the people who run the hospital are caring and compassionate, the hospital runs like a machine, with everybody working together, from the vets to the people who see the clients when they first come through the door, and it's that professionalism and commitment to excellence that has kept the Prescott Animal Hospital going and growing for so many years.

"It certainly takes a team to keep this place running," says Vanderschuit.

The hospital provides both in-patient and ou-tpatient services, with an average of 25 companion animals treated in the hospital on a daily basis, and the large animal vets head out on the road every day to see upwards of 50 creatures at farms throughout the region.

There isn't much the vets and their team can't do in Prescott, as the hospital offers everything from preventative care and elective procedures to complex surgeries on animals both large and small. There are also full diagnostic facilities on-site. Animals and their owners don't have to leave Prescott to access lab services, ultrasonography, cardiology, radiology, and tissue biopsy.

That's part of what helps the Prescott Animal Hospital live up to its motto - Care and Comfort for Pets and People - and it's because hospital staff have been proving those words true for 40 years that everybody turned out last Saturday for the open house, both employees and clients alike, all of whom were happy to help mark the milestone.

"It's something we're certainly proud of, and it's nice to be able to celebrate it," said Coville.