Tuesday, August 4, 2020

COVID-19 Q & A

We are so happy to be back at work with our full staff during this crazy time!!!  So we thought this would be a good opportunity to go over some common questions we have encountered upon re-opening in relation to our business operations or the pandemic in general:

1.  Why did you close for so long?  Aren't veterinarians essential?
We are essential!  But as a spay and neuter clinic, we needed to close because spay and neuter surgery is considered elective.  While the Governor's executive order 109 didn't specifically mention veterinarians in the hault of elective surgery, it was implied.  Our state and national associations implored veterinarians to do the right thing during lockdown to help flatten the curve, which meant, as a spay and neuter clinic, we needed to close.

2.  Why is spay and neuter considered elective?
As we see the consequences of not spaying and neutering for 3 months, we sometimes have that same question!  But the fact of the matter is, NJ and other states were extremely concerned about the possibility of  running out of PPE (masks, gloves, etc).  And during a pandemic, these supplies do need to be conserved in case our brethren in human health care and first responders needed them to protect themselves.  Sometimes spay and neuter can be an emergency (if a pet has a pyometra, or prostatitis, both of which can be life threatening infections).  But, for the most part, it can be delayed safely.

3.  Why do I have such a long wait for an appointment?  Why does the online scheduler keep declining my appointments?
We were closed for about 3 months.  That's 3 months worth of appointments that needed to be rescheduled.  In addition to that, the feral cat colonies didn't know about COVID-19, and continued to reproduce!  There are a lot of kittens out there right now.  Many people in lockdown also decided to adopt a pet that now needs a spay or neuter.  Several private practices have also still cut back on elective surgeries as they catch up with their preventative care, which was also on hold for a time.  This means more work for us.  While we are happy to be popular right now, the reality is that we do not have the staffing to increase our services at this time.  We all have had to make scheduling adjustments as we have kids or elderly family members who depend on us for extra help right now.  You may certainly call/text/email us to see if we have any cancellations.  If the online scheduler is declining the date you selected, it is because we are fully booked.  You can try calling us or texting us, and depending on cancellations, we might be able to get you in sooner.  This is especially true if you have a small dog or a cat.

4.  Why have I had such a tough time getting in touch with somebody over the phone?
Catching up on surgeries and rescheduling all of those appointments has taken up more time than we would have liked.  When we are in surgery, and our front office staff is already helping another client, we will let the phone ring.  Our attention needs to be on our patients and anesthesia monitoring rather than answering the phone.  We are checking voicemail frequently, and if you don't want to leave a message, you can always text us your information.  Someone will contact you after surgery.  Our text number is 732-858-1344.

5.  Why aren't I allowed in the building?  When will you discontinue curbside drop off and pick up?
This pandemic is still a reality, and less people in the building means less risk to our staff.  And above all, we need to keep them as safe as possible so we can all stay healthy and continue to do our jobs everyday.  Curbside drop off and pick up is a reality for most veterinary practices right now.  We desperately want to be there for our clients, and it hurts us to do things over the phone/text/email/video.  We love the face to face contact.  But our waiting room is small, and the longer you are in close contact in a tight space talking to someone (and we love to talk!), the greater the risk, even if you are wearing a mask.  Curbside drop off and pick up will be happening for the foreseeable future.  We have gotten tremendous positive feedback from our virtual discharge videos, so make sure you look a those.  We  are committed to your confidence in us, and we are always there for you to answer any questions you might have, but with a mask outdoors, or via phone/email/text.  We are still performing surgical rechecks as needed, but we will triage these first by phone or email.  If you have poor access to technology, or have a special need, please talk to us!  We will work with you to figure something out.

6.  How do I get a hold of you for post-operative concerns?
We are answering the phones, but if you can't catch us, email us with your post-operative concerns.  Use info@spayneuternewjersey.com as directed in your discharge instructions.  DO NOT USE OUR TEXT NUMBER FOR POST OPERATIVE CONCERNS.  This is meant as an additional way to schedule appointments, and is not checked after hours.

7.  I am still concerned about the pandemic.  Should I wait to schedule my dog or cat's vaccines or spay and neuter?
We can't tell you what to do.  Everyone has their own comfort level right now.  But we can tell you that we will keep you and your pet safe if you schedule with us.  If your pet is due for vaccines or needs sterilization, I would encourage you to book it (with us or your private practitioner).  Accidental pregnancies are a reality, and NJ has come so far in the last decade decreasing unwanted pets in shelters.  Let's not let Coronavirus take that away from us.

8.  Can my pet get COVID-19?  How do I protect them?
There have been rare instances of pets (mostly cats) showing signs of respiratory illness and testing positive for the disease when they live in a household where a family member has confirmed COVID-19.  Current theory is that they can be susceptible (at least in some cases), signs are usually mild, and they are likely a dead-end host if they do get sick (meaning they can't pass it back to people).  There is no evidence that the virus is carried on the haircoat.  However, this is all theory at this point.  There is so much we still don't understand about this virus.  The safest thing to do if someone in your house is sick or quarantining from a likely exposure is to have someone else in the household taking care of your pets, and isolate your pets from the quarantined family member.

9.  What kind of precautions are you taking at work to mitigate the spread?
We are currently keeping all clients out of the building, relying on curbside drop off and pick up protocols.  Our daily staff socially distances unless a specific task (e.g. lifting a dog) prevents it.  We all wear masks inside the building.  We rely on technology as much as we can to limit face to face client interactions.  We have increased the frequency of  disinfecting more commonly used surfaces and devices (light switches, keyboards, phones, etc).  Our regular hospital cleaners and disinfectants are lethal to coronavirus.  We continue to use these products and the same broad surface cleaning protocols for floors, cages, counters, surgery tables etc that we always have.  We are a surgical center, and it has always been a top priority to be pristine.  Our patients depend on it.

10.  What can I do to help?
Donate a can of dog or cat food to our foodbank.  If you know a rescuer, ask them if you can sponsor a spay or neuter.  PLEASE DON'T GHOST US!  If you cannot make your appointment, please call or email us.  That spot is saved for you, and we know someone else who wants it.  If you don't show up, we've lost that income.  As a small business struggling through the pandemic, that really hurts.
Be patient.  Remember that we are doing the best we can.  Everyone we encounter in this has some struggle that we don't know about.  We really have to remember that we really are all in this together.  Let's practice kindness wherever we go.

Looking forward to better times ahead!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Don't Let Technology Ruin your Doctor/Patient/Client Relationship Before it Starts

Over the 5 years we have been open, we have tried diligently to create a positive experience for our clients  and our pets.  We have a niche business where we aim to provide a common veterinary service at a reduced cost so that it is available to everyone.  We are able to price our services below most private practices because we are efficient at what we do.  And because we specialize in spay and neuter, we lack much of the overhead and inventory costs that a typical private practice has.  But we do not compromise when it comes to our choices of anesthesia, pain management, patient care, and above all, client communication.  This is why if you are price shopping, you will find that although we tend to be below private practice prices, we are not the cheapest spay and neuter clinic (and that was never our goal).

We realize that some clients prefer to book online, and not have a face to face or telephone conversation with people.  These clients are generally very busy, and very good at discerning the information we give them via our website and online scheduler.  Many of our clients are rescuers who bring us numerous animals and have no questions about the procedure.  We applaud these people for being efficient, scheduling their appointment, and following through with us. These clients are very grateful that we offer this kind of convenient scheduling.  However, our online scheduler was never intended to be a way to avoid talking to our clients.  It's unfortunate that some clients use the online scheduler and other nonverbal forms of communication because they are simply too afraid to speak to a human being.  As technology becomes more advanced, there are more pathways to take this shortcut (email, texting, instant messenger, etc...).  Sometimes this technology enables us to multitask, but it is too often used as an excuse to keep our head down and not ask the hard questions we need to ask.  When you connect with a human being either on the phone or in person, it helps you acknowledge that the situation is real. You become a more accountable participant and address your concerns more readily.

If you take the time to read our reviews, what separates us from other spay and neuter clinics is that you do get that personal experience with us.  Our staff is available and ready to answer any questions you have both before and after the procedure.  Every pet is special to someone, and we treat every one of our patients and their family that way.

So, if you see the red pawprint button on our website, don't be put off by it.  We aren't trying to avoid you.  We are trying to provide convenience for some of our clients.  And if you are thinking of pressing the button, use it wisely.  It is meant for veteran clients who don't have questions.  If you are a concerned pet owner with questions, or your pet has a health concern, give us a call!  We don't bite, and we are always at your service.

"The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

Monday, December 28, 2015

Have a Little Faith

We've been open a little over a year (5 quarters to be exact) and we have performed 2622 surgeries.  Not a bad start at all, although we wouldn't mind doubling that number for the next 5 quarters.  It was no surprised that we got more holiday cards this December than last- but the picture above is our favorite.

The St. Bernard on the right is aptly named Faith.  We met her at the end of last May.  She and her family sat in our waiting room after a long night  while Dr. Potter and I had a tough discussion with them.  Faith had been diagnosed with a pyometra at the local veterinarian's office.  This is a life threatening uterine infection.  If not addressed quickly, it can lead to sepsis, organ failure and death.  As a spay clinic, we are quite equipped to handle this surgery, and do so regularly for our clients.  Faith, however, was a special case.  She was 11 years old, which is ancient by St. Bernard standards.  On top of that, she was already clinically ill- she was pale, shocky, and too weak to stand.

Dr. Potter and I wrestled with whether she was a good surgical candidate or not.  We sat down with her owners and explained the serious risks- Faith could already be beyond our help surgically.  Even if we managed to catch it in time, we were still concerned about the significant anesthetic risk in a giant breed of her age.  Her family understood, and were willing to take these risks if we were.  They reasoned that her name is Faith, and that we all needed to have some.

After some IV fluids and antibiotics, we anesthetized her and performed the surgery.  Everything went as planned, and her recovery was slow but smooth.  Her family then took her and transferred her to an emergency facility for additional fluids and pain management.

When Faith arrived for staple removal 10 days later, she was a new lady- swaggering into our clinic on her arthritic hips, wagging that gorgeous tail without a care in the world.  She met us all with kisses and paw giving, and left with her share of cookies in her belly for being excellent for her staple removal.

Seven months later, we get this holiday card from her family, who were very happy to have her home for another holiday.  It was heartwarming to hear how well she is still doing.

Sometimes as veterinarians we have difficult cases.  They won't always work out, but whenever I feel a little cynical, I remember Faith, and my optimism is instantly restored.

From our family to Faith's, thank you for reminding us to always look for the good.  And from our family to yours, have a happy holiday season.   Each day is a gift.

Dr. H

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Indoor Rowing and Small Business Ownership

What does indoor rowing have to do with small business ownership?  Most of the time nothing, but for The Spay & Neuter Center of New Jersey something.

In a scramble to prepare for our grand opening back in October, while my partner and I were neck deep in conducting inventory and planning our orders, we realized we were in need of one big ticket item- bedding for our patients.  And lots of it.  My partner was ready to spend our future hard earned money on a trip to the thrift shop.  I placed my hand on her shoulder and said, "Don't worry.  I got this."  Why?  because I know Staten Islanders love animals.  and I know the Staten Islanders who go to Staten Island Crossfit are the best of them.  At my request, avid dog lovers and coaches Dan and Marc were kind enough to make their gym a temporary bedding depot for me to pick up some donations.  Everyone came through for me.  A special thanks goes to Paul, Doug, Rebecca, and Jake  for their extra effort.

The big shout out, however, goes to my friend Carrianne.  She has something like 18 jobs, is an awesome mom and pet owner, and a kick-ass workout partner.  She is also a bit of a sadist.  So when I said I would row 100 meters for every piece of bedding I collected, (and she knows how much I hate rowing) the game was on.  I don't remember her exact wording but something to the effect that I would wish I was dead when she was done with me.

Carrieanne rallied her awesome animal loving coworkers (people who save lives for a living- she's an EMT).  By the time I was done collecting I had 38 pieces of bedding.  I could have taken more, but we lacked space to store it!  I told her double or nothing for comforters, of which I had 3.  So that's 4100 meters.  Who rows 4100m?  Losers, that's who.  So it was on my to do list to do a 5k row.  At the bottom somewhere.  Dr. Potter will also vouch for the fact that I have lots of to do lists, too.  I could have easily misplaced the post-it I had this particular task written on.  I mean rowing is for people who don't run, right?

In all honesty, I was battling elbow tendinitis, fatigue (running a small business can do that), then training for a couple of races.  Every time I walked past my rower, I managed to find something else to store on it.  A jacket, a book, a child...anything to avoid sitting on it.  But that 5k was in the back of my mind.  An albatross.  I kept telling Carrianne that I owe her.  I knew she is not one to forget, and I knew, eventually, she would find me.

Finally, this Sunday afternoon, 8 months after I made a promise, I had nothing better to do because I can't run (I hurt my leg running-awesome job, Dr. H!).   I decided to make it happen.  It wasn't pretty, but like a Lannister, I pay my debts.  I didn't videotape it, because that would be really boring and embarrassing to watch.  But it did happen and I have the sweat angel to prove it.

So Carrianne, Staten Island Crossfit, and the 1158 dogs cats and rabbits to date that have comfy bedding to recover on:  this one is for you. And let me reiterate-I hate rowing.  -Dr. H

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pet Expo Hhmms and Haaahhs

A couple of weeks ago, our new business set up a booth at The Super Pet Expo in Edison, NJ.  It was a much bigger deal than any of us could have imagined and it was amazing.  The amazing part happened after a little bit of drama involving a dead car battery, a banner that wouldn't hang straight, and unlocking the secrets of the expo hall's hidden wifi network-but that is another blog entry in itself.

The entire weekend we spoke with people all day- and it was encouraging to be around so many like-minded rescue groups, veterinarians, animal lovers, and pet owners.  We met hundreds of kind people and got to meet their wonderful dogs.  And one snake.  And a monkey.

The point of us going there was to connect with people and get our names out there- google us and you'll find us, but some people weren't really looking but happened to stumble upon our booth.

The end result of this exciting weekend was education.  Yes, we booked a few appointments for new clients who have since walked into our clinic and trusted us to spay or neuter their pets.  But the intrinsic value was far greater- reaching out to people who were brave enough to ask us why we do what we do, and why it's important.  We had the opportunity to dispel some common arguments- here are a couple...

1.  My children need to understand the miracle of life.  While I agree watching little puppies and kittens grow  is wonderful, there are plenty of movies and books on the subject.  And there are no long term responsibilities associated with it and you get more sleep.
2.  We need to get one litter just to make a little money before she has the surgery.  Yes you can sell puppies.  But you might not get what you want for them.  Is your breed registered?  Have they had the appropriate (and ethical) veterinary screenings to make sure there are no genetic problems?  How much do you realistically think you will get for your puppies?  Will it offset the cost of feeding the mom and pups, vaccinating and deworming them, and giving them appropriate medical care if mom or puppies gets sick?  Although you can sell them, they are still living things, which require a much greater commitment than selling food or clothing.   Very few people make money on breeding animals.  Most in fact, lose money.  Financials aside, if you go down that road, and have puppies, who are you selling them to?  Will they be a loving pet owner?  Will they give the pet the care it deserves?  Are they going to spay and neuter the puppy?  Are you going to spay your dog after just one litter?  If the 2 latter things don't happen, you have further contributed to the pet overpopulation problem.
3.  My dog needs to sire one litter because if not he will go crazy.  We actually heard this one a lot over the weekend.  To be honest, I hadn't heard this one before so I wasn't even sure how to respond.  I don't know where this came from, but let's be clear.  Dogs and cats are not people.  They are lovely, and they have emotions and they do think things through in terms of conditioned responses.  But they don't think about what "could have been" like we do.  Their life of celibacy will not weigh them down and have a bearing on their personality.  It will give them more time to focus on bonding with you as a pet owner.
4.  My pet will get fat.  Maybe, but let's not pretend that obesity is a problem of spayed and neutered pets.  It is a problem in all pets.  It's one of the number one health problems that veterinarians deal with.  And the reasons for it mirror the reasons people are too fat-they eat too much and they don't exercise enough.  If you pet is fat, cut back the food.  Exercise them more.  See results.  This requires discipline, I know (just like in people).  But the concept couldn't be simpler.

I'm sure we heard more, but these are the ones that stood out.  Myths dispelled.  We are here to help you and your pets, and to help the community one surgery at a time.  So what are you waiting for?

Dr. H

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


With New Year fast approaching, we all often fall into the trap of making resolutions.  Sometimes we dream big, sometimes we set smaller short term goals, and sometimes we do a bit of both.  It occurred to me that every year my resolutions fall under the same general categories-

1.  how to be better to my family and friends (listen more, be more patient, keep in touch better...)
2.  how to treat myself better (more organic food, meditation, sleep, exercise, reading a good book...)
3.  how to be better in my profession (take more continuing education, hone communication skills, client education...)

And that is pretty much where it ends.  I set small goals in each category (read a book every night to the kids, take 5 cleansing breaths every morning, create a more comprehensive set of surgery discharge instructions for my patients...)  so at the end of the year, I know I've made small changes that improved myself and helped reach my goals.  Then I realized something-not once have my pets made the cut.

I have never once resolved to be a better pet owner.  All of a sudden I am very disappointed with myself.  It's as if being a veterinarian has given me a free pass.  I'm a vet, so of course I'm a wonderful pet owner.  Guess what?  I'm far from it.  Veterinarians are actually notoriously bad pet owners.  We spend all day caring for other people's pets.  And then we come home to everything else life throws at us.  And unless there is dog vomit on the floor or the cat has chosen not to use the litter box, we are also sometimes guilty of giving them a quick pat on the back, a bowl of food, then moving on with our busy lives.

Don't get me wrong- my pets have it good.  They are up to date on their immunizations and geriatric blood work.  They are within a healthy body weight (give or take 10% of their mass-it's winter, people!).  My lovely cat Ricky sits on me whenever he wants...I stay up late sometimes at night watching TV so he doesn't have to get up.  My other cat Zoe, who is a bit of a nightmare behaviorally, has the outdoors at her feet by day (with her own kitty door) and free run of the house at night.  My pets have it good.  But I never once thought about how I can make their lives even better.

We all strive to be better spouses, moms, dads, daughters, sons, and friends...how about we resolve to be better pet owners too?  It could be getting your pet to a healthier weight, or taking her in to check out a lump that you've been ignoring.   It could be getting her spayed (subliminal marketing). It could be playing more with her or taking her for an extra walk.  A little change can make a big difference to your companion's life.  And if your pet is happier, you will be too.

So this year, I resolve to be a better pet owner.  Ricky and Zoe:  I promise to replace your cardboard cat scratchers once they look worn down, instead of after they have collected dust for 3 months.  I will even throw in a catnip refill for your enjoyment.

Happy New Year and we look forward to a bright 2015 together!

Dr. Hancock

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Life of a Tech

Being a veterinary technician is an extremely rewarding but challenging labor of love.  I never really planned on doing this as my chosen profession, I happened to just naturally fall into it.  As a child I always loved animals, especially my first dog, a super affectionate Collie/Shepherd mix named Princess Pup Pup.  As a teenager, I began volunteering my time with an animal rescue organization and became actively involved in rescuing and rehabilitating homeless animals.

When I eventually got my first job at a veterinary hospital I had no idea I was in for such an exciting experience!  Dealing with life, death, and everything in between was fascinating and I couldn’t wait to learn and do more!  Vet techs perform a wide variety of duties and we perform some of the same duties as nurses, anesthetists, radiology technicians, dental hygienists, laboratory technicians, pharmacists, surgical assistants, and janitors!  Even with all of that responsibility, almost every technician I know loves their job even when it gets difficult.

In the past 9 years I have worked in general practice, emergency and referral, management, and now at The Spay and Neuter Center of New Jersey!  I can't express how happy I am to be working for such a wonderful clinic that is providing such an important service for a cause that is so near to my heart.  Over 3 million pets are euthanized each year in shelters across the US.  Many of these pets are healthy and well-tempered, however, there are simply too many of them to find loving homes for them all.  The first step in solving this heartbreaking problem is spay and neuter!  By preventing litters we can decrease the number of animals that enter the overcrowded shelter system and prevent unneeded suffering and euthanasia of loving pets.  It’s my hope that we can make a difference in the lives of people and animals.

Stephanie Mulligan, Certified Veterinary Technician