One year after moving into a bigger space and offering more services to a wider range of people, a Madison veterinary service for those who can’t afford care says it wants to reach more pets and their owners.
Wisconsin Companion Animal Resources, Education, and Social Services — also known as WisCARES — is a South Side veterinary service coupled with social services for some of the area’s neediest pet owners.
Until last year, the service operated out of a cramped Quonset hut just off Fish Hatchery Road on Culmen Street and could offer only limited services for homeless Dane County pet owners or those in precarious housing situations.
The clinic now occupies a larger space nearby at 1402 Emil St., where WisCARES offers services to a wider range of people.
The approximately 4,200 square-foot space is about four times bigger than the former location.
“It’s been really great to see the impact we can have in the lives of the patients and clients we do have and it’s nice to not be in such a small location,” said William Giles, director and co-founder of WisCARES.
The service, which started operating in 2014, still offers free basic veterinary care including vaccinations, flea and tick prevention and spay and neuter services to homeless pet owners and those in unstable housing situations.
Human clients can also work with social workers and are offered information for connecting to other social services such as housing and landlord assistance.
But WisCARES now also offers more services, including reduced-cost surgeries and dental care, while making its services available to more people.
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Now, clients who are at 250% of the federal poverty level and below qualify for discounted veterinary care.
WisCARES lately has seen about 10 or 11 patients a day on clinic days, Giles said.
While demand for WisCARES services has drastically increased, he said, there’s still a huge group of pet owners with lower incomes that the clinic — and others like it — aren’t reaching.
“It’s certainly still a reminder that this is not going to solve the entire issue for the community,” Giles said.
The clinic now has three exam rooms, a space for dental care, a surgery room, lab area, pharmacy room, space for pet boarding, a break room for employees and a separate room for social workers to interact with clients.
It continues to offer basic pet supplies and operate a pet food pantry, with more storage space.
The bigger space has also allowed the clinic to take on more volunteers and veterinary, medical, pharmacy and social work students to get hands-on experience working with animals and their owners.
While the space can feel crowded at times with all of the extra employees, students and volunteers who can now help out at once, Giles said, WisCARES still has the capacity to take on more clients.
“There’s still a lot of folks in the community who ... we certainly could be reaching,” he said. “It’s nice to have the room to grow for that.”