Veterinary oncologist Jeanette M. Kelly knows how scary it can get when Santa Fe residents have a late-night pet emergency.
Kelly, the sole practitioner of Veterinary Cancer Care on Vivigen Way, said that in the past she would send pet owners in a bind to the adjacent emergency center owned by Pathways. Since it closed in March 2020 — as the only 24/7 emergency clinic in Santa Fe at the time — the nearest 24/7 emergency clinic has been in Albuquerque, and she has had to find new ways to help those in need.
“We were just like, what do we do?” Kelly said. “We can’t send them to Albuquerque, because we call Albuquerque and they say it’s a six-hour-long wait. It just got to the point where we were struggling with what to do … I didn’t know what to do with critical patients.”
Kelly, who opened her veterinary cancer practice in 2005, figured she could help fill the gap.
Kelly intends to open a 24/7 emergency pet clinic in Pathways’ former home at 2001 Vivigen Way. A date isn’t hammered down, but Kelly said she hopes to have something going by Nov. 30.
“You’re looking over social media, and it’s like, this is ridiculous,” Kelly said. “This is a community where everybody loves their pets; what is going on? I said, ‘I have to do something.’ ”
The single mother of three said she doesn’t plan to follow any sort of corporate model when the emergency shelter opens, saying her focus is patients having a better relationship with their vets.
Kelly said she’s not too concerned about finding employees amid what many consider to be a national shortage of veterinarian workers.
She said she already has one vet who sold her Las Cruces-area practice to come be a part of the clinic. She expects to need about four in total.
Kelly said she also will need about four technicians, whom she hopes will also double as receptionists who can help expedite care or help with triage.
“We will need help,” Kelly said. “We will need our community. My pitch to the community is, we need you. We need receptionists, we need technicians and we will need doctors.”
Kelly said the plan is to start slow and ramp up hours as clinic staffing grows. She said she already has one vet on board via a handshake agreement and recently began a nationwide search for more.
Kelly said she’s not sure why no other emergency vet clinic opened in Santa Fe in Pathways’ absence but believes “burnout” and “compassion fatigue” played a role.
She added that the business side isn’t alluring to certain vets who just want to help patients.
“Vets graduate vet schools, and you can work for a university, another vet or open your own business,” Kelly said. “No matter what, you should have some business knowledge no matter what you do. We don’t get that sort of training.”
Kelly has goals beyond opening the emergency shelter.
She said she wants to create what she calls a community center, in which a number of veterinary- and pet-adjacent businesses can operate down the line, all sharing similar resources like an MRI machine.
She foresees a wellness center, an indoor/outdoor pool, a doggy day care and a boarding center tailored to people whose pets require extra monitoring.
Kelly said she also has plans to open a technician training partnership with Northern New Mexico College.
She said she never really wanted to be part of “anything big,” but that’s the route she is taking.