For Berkshire Barks and Purrs owner, mobile veterinary service is more than a pet project
SHEFFIELD — Much like the good boys and girls it treats, Berkshire Barks and Purrs comes when you call it.
The mobile veterinary clinic got rolling in October when Dr. Tracey Fahey launched her private practice. Berkshire Barks and Purrs Advanced Mobile VetCare offers services that include annual wellness checkups, X-rays, surgeries and dental work. Fahey, the clinic's sole doctor, also takes the van out to respond to emergencies seven days a week from 6 a.m. to midnight.
Fahey, 44, said she was encouraged to open a wheeled clinic, instead of a bricks-and-mortar operation, by her desire to spend more time one-on-one with pets and clients. To do this, Fahey said she had to keep the overhead costs of doing business low. A new veterinarian will spend about $1 million to open a stationary clinic, she said, while a mobile clinic costs about one-fourth of that.
"I can do anything a stationary clinic can do, in this vehicle," said Fahey, who had a dog-neutering and vaccination administration on her schedule for an upcoming trip to Otis. "I can get to people where they are; they don't need to have the stress of getting to the clinic and waiting, rushing."
There are several other mobile veterinary clinics in Berkshire County, including one for large animals.
With 18 years of experience in veterinary medicine, Fahey said she has seen pet health care shift from private ownership and relationship building to a more corporate business model that relies on quick patient turnover. Corporations buying independent clinics and regional chains has been an industry trend since the late 1980s, according to sector-specific publications, though no data were available on the typical duration of a client exam.
Fahey said she tried to buy an established practice from a retiring, local doctor, but was outbid by a company.
"It's different when you're in consultation with the owner," she said. "When you visit someone at home, you get to bond with the client and the pet."
Fahey said that with her mobile clinic, she is providing care tailored to individual pets. By meeting pets where they are most comfortable — their homes — Fahey said she is making pet health care easier on animals and their owners. She spends about 30 to 45 minutes with each client.
Berkshire Barks and Purrs travels within a 25-mile radius of its home base on Miller Avenue in Sheffield. Each visit includes a $40 to $50 travel fee. An exam is $65, and vaccines are about $25.
"I think I can do a lot of good for people and their pets," she said.
Kristin Palpini can be reached at email@example.com, @kristinpalpini, 413-629-4621.
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