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New clinic offers low-cost pet care

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    The lobby of the new wellness clinic bears the name of Mary E. Barina, whose estate funded about half of the expenses for the facility.
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    The facility includes a surgical suite for spay and neuter procedures.

Bastrop County Animal Services is taking a big step to provide low-cost basic care for the pets of the local community.

The Bastrop County Animal Shelter, 589 Cool Water Drive, will host a grand opening event on May 5 for the brand-new Mary E. Barina Pet Wellness & Spay/Neuter Center, with a ribbon cutting at 12:30 p.m. After the ribbon cutting, the new wellness clinic will be open for free rabies vaccinations and microchips until 4 p.m. The event will also include a lunch that will be a fundraiser for the animal shelter.

Before Sunday’s event, the new wellness clinic has already had a soft opening and is open this week on Tuesday and Friday, said Bastrop County animal services director Ashley Hermans.

The building hosts a surgical suite and two examination rooms, allowing the animal shelter to offer low-cost vaccinations, basic treatments and spay and neuter procedures. Most of the procedures and medications, such as vaccinations, heartworm testing and microchipping, ranges from $10 to $20. However, for more serious sickness or injury, the clinic will refer pets to full-service veterinary offices.

When Hermans first began working for Bastrop County Animal Services, a building at the animal shelter had recently been damaged in a storm. Then-commissioner for Bastrop County Precinct 4, Bubba Snowden, asked Her-mans what she thought should replace the building, and her first thought was to build a wellness and spay/neuter center, she said.

The facility will be named the Mary E. Barina Pet Wellness & Spay/Neuter Center in honor of Mary Barina, a Smithville woman who passed away in 2014 and left her estate for the welfare of animals. Bubba Snowden had met with Barina’s nephew, Roy Pool, and showed him around the animal shelter, according to current Precinct 4 commissioner Donna Snowden, who took the position after her husband passed away earlier this year. When Bubba Snowden told him about their vision for a facility to offer spay and neuter services, Pool offered a donation of $80,000 to fund part of the clinic.

“Bubba was just indebted to him for being supportive of the shelter,” Donna Snowden said. “Ashley (Hermans) has worked really hard on it.”

The groundbreaking for the clinic was in 2017. Although it took longer to construct the building by using county staff for much of the work to save money, Hermans said, the surgical suite of the building was ready for procedures by the end of 2018. Now, the building is completed, the staff is hired, and the clinic is ready for its grand opening on Sunday.

Part of the reason for making spay and neuter procedures more accessible to the community is to help reduce the growing population of stray animals for which homes cannot be found.

“Once they get those kennels cleared out, they’re filled up immediately,” Donna Snowden said. “It’s a never-ending cycle. We have so many new people moving into Bastrop County, so we have more pets. And if you don’t spay and neuter your dog, it’s going to be a continuous cycle.”

This new wellness clinic is intended to offer another resource to people who can’t afford to spay and neuter their pets or pay for other basic veterinary services, Hermans said.

“A lot of times, people have these animals because they found them and they started taking care of them, but they just don’t have the discretionary funds,” she said. “Having these animals vaccinated means a reduction in potential for disease to spread throughout the community, and having these animals spayed and neutered means there’s going to be less demand on the resources here at the shelter.”

Currently, the wellness clinic is scheduled to be open three days a week. However, Hermans hopes to increase the amount of staff at the wellness clinic and extend the hours of the clinic.

“We’re just going to continue to build on this,” she said. “It’s an important step to take to be able to offer people resources in the community, especially for the folks that really can’t access them otherwise.”