Animal associations

British Columbia Veterinary Hospital Introduces Shuttle to Provide Veterinary Care

The CEO of the Regional Animal Protection Society (RAPS) said he had received calls for years from people who were unable to transport their pets for veterinary care.

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Eyal Lichtmann, CEO of the Regional Society for the Protection of Animals, with a vehicle that will be part of a new service for owners of pets with mobility or other challenges, such as the elderly and single parents who cannot easily leave home to visit the vet. Photo by Nick Procaylo /PNG

Consider it BC’s first HandyDart for pets. A non-profit veterinary hospital in Richmond is gearing up to provide veterinary care with a new, specially equipped shuttle.

Eyal Lichtmann, CEO of the Regional Humane Society, says his hospital has been getting calls for years from people who have been unable to transport their pets for veterinary care.

Some were those relying on public transit, which does not allow pets and is hardly appropriate in an emergency. Some were elderly people who no longer drive or have mobility issues.

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He said the need was clear: “If you’re in a wheelchair or you don’t have a vehicle, or you’re an elderly person who can’t drive at night,” how are you going to get your pet from company to an animal hospital?

Lichtmann said the company is converting a large Nissan van – donated by hospital neighbors to Applewood Auto Group – with a set of well-ventilated cages of various sizes before putting the vehicle into service within the next two months.

He points out that what they call the urgent transport unit is not exactly an ambulance. He will be sent to the pet owner’s home to see if a veterinarian can provide care right at home. Otherwise, the animal can be rushed to the hospital for further treatment.

The company also operates a cat sanctuary, pet adoption service, and pet food bank. All might find the van useful in emergency situations.

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The hospital, which has been based in Richmond for decades but now welcomes animals from across the region and province, sees the van as another key part of its outreach.

“We think it’s a crucial and important part of what we do,” Lichtmann said. “We want to help animals and their people, and the last thing you want is for animals to die just because they can’t get to a vet.

“He will really be there to help disadvantaged populations,” to set up clinics in communities and deliver supplies to other organizations, including those in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

It will operate on a sliding-scale remuneration model, meaning those who can afford to pay for the service will help subsidize those who cannot. Once launched, it expects to steadily expand its availability and what it offers.

He says that to the company’s knowledge, it will be the only veterinary hospital in British Columbia to offer such a service.

Lichtmann noted that the Regional Animal Protection Society Animal Hospital receives support for the van not only from Applewood, but also through grants from Pet Valu’s Companions for Change program and a grant from Vancity’s Leo & Frances Longo Fund. Community Foundation.