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From the community

New North Aurora clinic helps animal rescue groups, pet owners

Niles, a Shih Tsu, found his "forever home" thanks to Fox Valley Animal Welfare League (photo: FVAWL).

Niles, a Shih Tsu, found his "forever home" thanks to Fox Valley Animal Welfare League (photo: FVAWL).

Niles arrived on Labor Day weekend 2010. His journey first took him to a local veterinary clinic. But the clinic could not treat him, for he was a stray. No one was there to pay for his care; no owner came forward to claim him.

So off he went to Aurora Animal Control (AAC).

“I stumbled across him curled up in his cage, looking like he had lost his best friend,” Fox Valley Animal Welfare League (FVAWL) President Ellen Wullbrandt said.

But Labor Day was a holiday; the shelter was closed for the long weekend.

“There was no way [Niles] could be left there, not knowing the extent of his injuries,” Wullbrandt said. One of Niles’ legs was limp and one eye bloodshot and swollen; however, nothing appeared broken, she said.

But Niles, a little white Shih Tzu, had been hit by a car and needed immediate attention.

After making a quick phone call, Wullbrandt rushed the little dog to a nearby animal hospital, where a veterinarian and his team, about to close for the holiday, waited for them, assessed the injuries and suggested Niles be carefully observed over the weekend.

Wullbrandt, a 10-year FVAWL volunteer, then found Niles a “wonderful foster home where he was watched around the clock to make sure he remained stable,” she said.

The foster family fell in love with Niles, later adopting him.

For 65 years Wullbrandt’s organization, FVAWL, has served as the non-profit “arm” for AAC, helping animals find medical care and “forever homes.”

But the League wanted to do more for the animals in Fox Valley communities. It wanted to create a low-cost spay/neuter clinic and a pet food pantry. It wanted to offer wellness clinics.

“We needed more space because we only had a small office [located inside the AAC building],” Wullbrandt said. “There’s no way we could have had a clinic and a food pantry [inside AAC]. We needed more room.”

The birth of Fox Valley’s first low-cost clinic

The dream of more space became reality when the League found the “perfect place” along the Route 31 corridor in North Aurora, clinic Director of Operations Richard Glessner said.

“The minute we walked into this building, we knew this was the perfect place,” said Glessner, who has 26 years experience in animal welfare. “It just lent itself perfectly to what we wanted to do.”

The building at 11 John Street, with a Prestige Plumbing sign still prominently displayed in its front yard, has opened on a limited basis. Spay/Neuter surgeries occur Tuesdays and Wednesdays, primarily for rescue groups. In addition, the clinic held its first wellness clinic Saturday, Jan. 21. At least one wellness clinic will be offered to the public each month.

“Everybody who has come in here has been overwhelmed, thrilled, excited and so supportive to make this happen,” Glessner said. “We have four veterinarians on board now and looking to add more.

“As volume increases we’ll add more doctors and more days [for the low-cost spay/neuter surgeries].”

The addition of a Pet Food Pantry

Besides the low-cost surgeries and wellness days, the clinic will house a Pet Food Pantry. The pantry, operational sometime in April, will be available to the clinic’s spay/neuter clients.

“Part of our mission statement is to educate the community,” said Elisa Scodro, pantry manager. “We want [the Pet Food Pantry] to be an assistance, and we hope it’s temporary assistance.”

The pantry will subsist solely on donations from businesses, individuals and pet stores, said Scodro, who also serves as FVAWL’s vice-president. A variety of foods will be available, along with disposable litter pans and cat litter.

Scodro said clinic management will determine if families who bring in an animal for spay/neuter services are also eligible to receive free food from the pantry.

“Pets are often one of the few positive things in [people’s] lives,” said Scodro, a mom of two teenage girls as well as several pets. “The focus is keeping these animals [in their homes and] out of shelters.”

To maintain a full pantry, the clinic will sponsor pet food drives, and Scodro encourages other animal-loving individuals and groups to follow suit.

First to help the Pet Food Pantry will be West Aurora High School’s Dance Team of which Scodro’s daughter Amelia is a two-year member. The drive will take place at the high school basketball game Feb. 18.

“It’s a nice way for the girls to give back,” Scodro said.

She also hopes those using the clinic’s services will share information about the clinic and the food pantry with others in their community.

“In today’s world almost every single call [to animal shelters involves] people who can’t afford to keep [their pets],” Glessner said. “It’s a trend that’s being seen nationally in animal welfare: Owners are giving up their animals for financial reasons.

“Everybody knows somebody with an animal they’re not treating or can’t afford to feed,” Glessner said. “We’ll do whatever is in the best interest of the animal—that’s our first and foremost philosophy.”

NEXT: The Ribbon-Cutting Grand Opening on National Spay Day, Feb. 28.

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