By: Suzanne D’Alonzo, Community Outreach Programs Manager for Humane Pennsylvania
Perhaps you’ve been to a drive-in movie. Surely you’ve gotten fast food through a drive-in restaurant. Maybe you have recently attended a drive-in graduation? Well, Humane Pennsylvania is happy to give “Drive-in” a whole new meaning!
Since late spring, we’ve resumed serving our community with a new form of affordable, accessible pet care: the Drive-in Vaccination/Microchip Clinic. Our previous vaccination clinic offerings were walk-in models, with many people gathering in the same room- clearly something that had to be tweaked once COVID-19 struck.
Wanting to hit the ground running, we contacted other shelters and health departments that had been offering drive-in vaccination services for years to see how they had operated such clinics. Using their tips, as well as some of their “lessons learned,” our clinics have gone smoothly.
The clinics are now popping up around Reading. They started in our own Humane Veterinary Hospital parking lot, but it’s made sense to move them to various locations, just as we did with our original vaccine clinic model. Each new location has the potential to expand our audience, which is just what we want: the more people that know about the Drive-in Clinics, the better! Different spots also mean that we get the chance to create positive new relationships with other businesses and organizations in the community, and that always opens opportunities. For example, we’ll be in the parking lot of Nightclub Reverb for one of the October clinics (thanks, Reverb!). Nightclubs previously had been overlooked, not coming to mind as an obvious shelter or vet hospital connection. This gave us the chance to ask, “why not?!” Their parking lot is a great space for our Drive-in Clinic, plus their neighborhood and their general audience are pet owners too!
So, what’s the goal of our Drive-in Vaccination/Microchip Clinics? To get as many dogs and cats vaccinated and chipped as possible, of course! Drive-in Clinics let us offer affordable, accessible vaccines for some of the diseases that are most dangerous to our pets. (We’re able to provide Rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats, DA2PPV for dogs and FVRCP for cats.) And the microchipping increases the chance that a lost pet gets reunited quickly.
It’s a Pay-What-You-Can model that lets us provide services to everyone. Our cost is about $10 per service. Pet owners who can pay for the services their pets receive helps cover our costs. The pet owners who contribute a little more help us to provide services to those who can’t pay anything. And for those pet owners who can’t afford to pay anything, it’s free; we happily vaccinate/microchip those pets too.
Pet caregivers register ahead of time, online or by phone. This lets us keep the flow of cars going as they arrive. Our team of staff and volunteers check clients in, line up the cars, review previous vet records, and confirm the vaccinations and/or microchips that will be given. We serve dogs and cats on separate dates, so kittles don’t have to hear barking (we know the car ride is tough enough). In turn, pets are taken to the vet’s station, vaccinated and/or microchipped, and placed back in their car before they know it. Owners conveniently and safely stay in their vehicles, with the whole process taking only minutes.
Opening up Drive-in Clinic options can really be a game changer for pet owners. It’s another tool in the toolbox for taking care of pets. For some of our clients this is their only opportunity for veterinary care for their pet at this time. For others, pets may get the “basic” vaccinations from us, letting their owner sock away money for additional vet care, like a dental cleaning or other vaccines their pet may need. With COVID’s impact, our clinics are seeing an even wider range of clients, and we’re here for them all.
We’ll continue to explore how we can best serve our community. With so many things that are currently in flux, it’s likely that we may tweak the Drive-in option or introduce new options. What won’t change is our commitment to working towards every pet getting what they need to be happy and healthy and at home.