Army Veterinarian Treats Pets for Navy in Newport

Story Number: NNS120214-22Release Date: 2/14/2012 9:54:00 PM
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By Bob Krekorian, Naval Station Newport Public Affairs

NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Naval Station Newport's Veterinary Treatment Facility welcomed active duty service members and military retirees and their pets, who visited the clinic for routine vaccinations and wellness screenings, pet supplies, and minor sick call examinations Feb 3.

Army Capt. Erin Abrahams, Veterinary Corps officer (VCO) and doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM), chief, New London Branch Veterinary Services, and her Army enlisted staff of two animal care specialists and two food inspectors, were kept busy in-processing the pets with their owners and filling exam rooms.

Located at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation's Leisure Bay recreation facility, Building 1255, the clinic closed last spring 2011 when the previous VCO from the New London Branch, stationed in Groton, Conn., was reassigned. "We are working to provide more convenient and regular hours at the Newport clinic, but unfortunately we don't have the necessary personnel quite yet," Abrahams said.

Since reopening in December 2011, Abrahams and the staff have provided veterinary services to nearly 75 pets at the Newport clinic. The clinic is open for walk-in appointments, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., on the first Friday of the month.

Some owners visited to purchase over-the-counter pet medications for flea and tick infestation, as well as prescription heartworm medication, providing their pet had been treated previously at a military veterinary facility and necessary blood tests were up-to-date.

"Pets who need follow-up care can be seen on an appointment basis at the New London facility," Abrahams said.

"We come here every two years for routine maintenance," said retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Smith of Newport, R.I. Smith, with his Alaskan Eskimo dog, Buddy, was one of 35 pet owners seeking veterinary services Feb. 3.

The U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, comprised of VCOs, food safety warrant officers, animal care specialists, food inspectors, and civilians, provides health care to pets of active duty military personnel and retirees, as well as monitoring food safety, for all branches of the services.

Veterinary services performs myriad of duties that include: training dog handlers in first-response care; providing medical attention to government-owned and military contractors' military working dogs; monitoring service member food-supply safety at home and abroad; and treating animals in disaster zones such as the World Trade Center after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

"Our Soldiers are trained to do everything - the food inspectors are trained to assist with the animal mission, and the animal care specialists are trained to assist with the food mission," Abrahams said. "In a deployment setting, a Soldier must be ready to perform any duty, regardless of his or her job title. Cross-training is performed on a weekly basis, and we are putting our food inspectors to work at the Newport clinic until we obtain the personnel needed to support the large client base in the area."

"We are grateful for the services, it's cheaper, and it's a good fringe benefit," Smith said.

Lt. Jason Brandley of Phoenix, Ariz., a Surface Warfare Officers School student, brought his dachshund, Wilma, for vaccination.

"You have to like the cost," said Patty Crawford who was visiting the clinic with her Yorkshire terrier, Dipper, and her cat, Midnight, for the first time since arriving at Naval Station Newport.

"We bring our cat here for basic vet services and it's cheaper," said Navy physician Capt. George Smith, Naval Health Clinic New England.

"The vet here is very smart and very professional," he said. "There is always the element of trust. I trust her with our pets," he said.

"When you own a pet you want to have them checked regularly," said Christine Bagley of Middletown, R.I. Bagley adopted her Basset mix dog, Millie, from the Blue Dog Rescue Group, Rockport, Mass.

"They're very efficient here," Bagley said. "It makes a huge difference for a budget," she said.

Abrahams shares her duties with a civilian contractor, Dr. John Turco, DVM, who is also an Army Reservist.

The New London clinic is located at 83 Grayling Avenue, Groton, Conn., across from the bowling alley on the New London Submarine Base. Hours are Monday-Friday 8:00 am to 3:30 pm, with appointments available most days of the week. Please call 860-694-4291 to schedule routine and sick call appointments at the New London clinic, or to inquire about the Newport clinic.

The next Newport clinic day will be March 1, between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm.

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