Santa Ynez Valley seniors living on limited or fixed incomes who have pets with medical needs got some low-cost help Friday morning when the C.A.R.E.4Paws mobile veterinary van paid a visit to the Solvang Senior Center for a Pet Wellness Day.


From 9 a.m. to noon, seniors as well as homeless pet owners who made appointments in advance could bring their dogs and cats to the veterinary office on wheels for a variety of services.


“We saw about 12 (pet owners) here, and we have about 12 scheduled in Lompoc this afternoon,” said Isabelle Gullo, co-founder of C.A.R.E.4Paws. “We did two dentals, some nail trims, several shots and treated a couple of skin allergies.”

Veterinarian James Speir, with the help of veterinary assistant Sierra Espinoza, C.A.R.E.4Paws mobile clinic manager Carlos Abitia and Gullo, was able to provide services the seniors otherwise could not afford, would have to pay off over a long period of time or would neglect themselves to obtain.


“We see people not eating because they’re taking care of their pets,” Gullo said.


Susan Warner, of Santa Ynez, was among those who took advantage of the services, bringing in two of her three Shih Tzus — Sparky, age 7, and Maisey, age 12 — to have their teeth cleaned.


“If I went to a veterinarian, it would probably cost 500 bucks apiece,” Warner said. “Since I live on Social Security, I was able to do it for $200 total.


“It’s a wonderful service,” she added. “The shots, everything is low-cost.”


Gullo said it’s all based on income. Pet owners who need assistance are referred to C.A.R.E.4Paws by veterinarians, the Division of Animal Services and other agencies familiar with their situations.


The pet owners must fill out an online application, then send in proof of financial need. Once the person’s income is verified, an appointment is made for the low-cost services the individual’s pet requires.


Recently, the team performed double eye surgery on a bulldog that had been suffering from a severe irritation for a couple of years, she said.


An eye surgeon had given the dog’s owner a quote of $4,000 to perform the procedure, which he simply couldn’t afford. Through the mobile clinic, the procedure was done for a $250 donation.


Gullo said she just got another thank-you and a testimonial from a Santa Ynez Valley family whose cat, Samson, had badly injured its leg.


The family took the cat to a veterinarian who diagnosed the injury, but with children in the home and more on the way, they just couldn’t afford the cost. Yet the cat was part of the family, and they didn’t want to give him up.


“We were able to do the surgery in the van,” Gullo said. “Now it’s healed and back with the family.”


Medical veterinary procedures aren’t the only services C.A.R.E.4Paws provides through its new mobile van that began service April 1.


A new, larger and more reliable version that their previous van, the new mobile veterinary office allows the nonprofit organization to provide more types of services, like home visits, and in greater volume.


The new van also allows the group to provide services throughout the county, from Carpinteria to Casmalia to Cuyama.


“When you’re driving out to Cuyama, you don’t want to break down,” Gullo said.


As of April 1, when the new van was placed into service, C.A.R.E.4Paws has provided veterinary medical care to about 150 pets.


Since the first of the year, the team has performed more than 450 spay and neuter procedures and vaccinated at least 1,000 dogs and cats, she said, adding that on Sunday, the organization was holding a $5 rabies vaccination clinic in Isla Vista.


As the last pet owner and her dog left the van, the team began packing up to head for the next stop.


“We’re doing a home visit to a disabled man in Lompoc to drop off pet food,” Gullo said, adding, “I’m calling this the Pet Meals on Wheels.”


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