Care for furry friends available on base

4 Oct 2004 | Cpl. Kristin S. Jochums

Servicemembers and their families, retirees and active duty reservists with pets don't have to go into Jacksonville to have their furry friends taken care of.

The Camp Lejeune Veterinary Treatment Facility, tucked away on Tarawa Terrace I, is a little-known asset.  Nestled between the fitness center and the post office, the facility provides care for acute illnesses and preventative medicine.

"Most people think all we do is vaccinate, which we do, but we also offer sick call," said Army Capt. Julie M. Schneider.

Schneider, officer in charge for the facility and a Pine Grove, Pa., native, said patrons with sick pets can bring them in to "sick call" from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, however, an appointment is necessary.  Appointments  can be set up by calling 450-1607 or visiting 2459 Iwo Jima Blvd. The vet clinic also offers a walk-in clinic the third Friday of every month from 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3:30 p.m.

"We encourage people to stop by to make appointments, then you will know where the clinic is located, you'll get to meet the staff and set your appointment without hitting redial all day," said Schneider.

During sick call, Schneider and her staff treat a variety of illnesses from vomiting and diarrhea to ear problems and skin disorders. They also offer standard vaccinations, blood testing and heartworm treatment. Along with providing standard care, the facility focuses on preventative medicine and treating diseases that can be spread from animals to humans, otherwise known as zoonotic diseases. They can also get pets ready for the frequent moves that come with service life.

"Don't forget your pets when you're getting ready [for a permanent change of station]," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Kevin P. Long, noncommissioned officer in charge for the clinic.

They give the servicemembers information on what to expect at their new station, such as vaccination and quarantine requirements.

"Each country is unique in their specific requirements," said the Quentin, Pa., native.  "If your pet isn't ready [to go], it can cost a significant amount of money."

Taking care of servicemembers' personally owned pets is just one of the duties the clinic has.  They are also responsible for the care of the military working dogs.

"Military working dogs are the unique part of the clinic," said Schneider.  "They are highly trained and fascinating."

The clinic offers full medical and surgical care to the 31 military dogs.  When they need care, the clinic shuts down just to handle their needs.

"It's quite an honor to take care of the dogs," she said.  "Just like the Naval Hospital makes sure the servicemembers are hundred percent deployable, we make sure the dogs are ready to go."

Another task the facility handles are the bite reports on base.

"We follow up with the animal to make sure they are quarantined or at home, then we follow up with the victim," said Schneider.

Last year, there were more than 200 bites reported.  In an effort to educate service members and their families, the clinic offers bite prevention classes for kids as well as pet shows and pet fairs on base.

"We have a huge mission. This is the largest Marine Corps base in the world, and we don't have a lot of people [staff]," said Long.

Don't get discouraged when the phone lines are busy; their small staff handles more than 10,000 patient records, according to Schneider.  "We check our answering machine daily and return the calls the best we can."

Along with having a small staff, the clinic is also self-sufficient.  The money it makes pays for the civilian staff, the medical supplies and the equipment needed.

"It takes a lot of time, patience and money to raise a pet," said Schneider.  "Pets are not disposable, they are like children and they need care."