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Emergency animal clinic to open this spring in Waynesville

animal controlPet owners in the western counties will soon have a shorter drive to tackle when their furry charges are in need of emergency medical care. Junaluska Animal Hospital plans to open the first after-hours clinic west of Asheville in Waynesville on March 28.

“You don’t have to be a client at Junaluska Animal Hospital to use the clinic. It’s for everybody and everyone, so we’re hoping we can help serve those communities and counties that are west of us because they have to go past us to get to Asheville,” said Suzanne Cianciulli, practice manager at the animal hospital. “In an emergency situation, time is of the essence.” 

Initially, the clinic will be open 5:30 p.m. to midnight on weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to midnight on weekends. The plan is to eventually extend the clinic’s hours to provide 24-hour, round-the-clock care. 

While some veterinary practices in the mountains do have Saturday hours and some vets do give clients their personal contact information in case of emergency, right now the furthest west 24-hour animal clinic in North Carolina is the Regional Emergency Animal Care Hospital (REACH) in Asheville, with the Western North Carolina Regional Animal Hospital and Veterinary Emergency Hospital nearby in Flat Rock, which is in Henderson County. 

 If you live in Waynesville, that’s a half-hour drive. If you’re in Franklin, it’s more than one hour. If you’re in Murphy, it’s nearly two. Once the clinic in Waynesville is established, people in the western part of the state will be able to shave some time off the quest to get their pets help. 

“We’re hoping we can save some lives for sure, just for saving time,” Cianciulli said.  

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When the animal hospital first announced its intention to open a clinic this summer, it wasn’t certain when opening day would be by virtue of its focus on finding the right veterinarians to fill the new spots on staff. It was important to find someone who would be committed to the animal hospital’s philosophy of keeping costs low by avoiding unnecessary procedures and prioritizing the importance of showing compassion to animals and their owners, Cianciulli said. 

“It was beautiful the way it happened because we had probably four or five resumes and the first three people we interviewed were just awesome,” Cianciulli said. “It was a huge blessing for sure because it’s not just about hiring any veterinarian. Is about hiring the right veterinarian.” 

Dr. Lilian Herron, an Oregon State University grad who lives in Hendersonville, will be spending three days per week at the emergency clinic, and a vet who graduated from Penn State and currently lives north of Charlotte will join the staff full-time. Cianciulli asked that her name not be printed until she has given notice to her current employer. Junaluska is also in the process of finding two new veterinary technicians, one full-time and one part-time.  

Back when REACH first opened, vets in the wider area — including Waynesville — had banded together to support the new emergency clinic as de facto shareholders, agreeing not to compete with the Asheville clinic. But that structure later dissolved, and while REACH asks area veterinarians to refer patients its way, Cianciulli said, no noncompete agreement is currently in place. 

“I’m surprised nobody has opened an emergency clinic honestly just because it has been a while (since the noncompete agreement ended) and it’s something that is so needed,” Cianciulli said. “That’s why we’re really just super excited about being able to do this.”

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