Like many pet owners, Tracey Warner found it difficult to wrangle her anxious feline, Tango, into a cat carrier for a stressful trip to the vet for a check-up and vaccinations.
“It was traumatizing. This cat never goes outside. He was terrified,” the Chillicothe resident said of her 9-year-old tabby cat’s visit to a veterinarian’s office. “After that outing, he started peeing on our beds.”
While talking to her sister-in-law about the ordeal, Warner learned there’s a mobile veterinarian clinic in the area owned by Dr. Kim Springman that treats pets at home.
Dr. Kelly Koetters and vet tech Anne brought the Hometown Veterinary Clinic to Warner’s driveway and treated Tango right there in the living room. “They weighed him and gave him a full exam. He was diagnosed with a stress-induced UTI-like condition that was probably caused by taking him to the vet for the check-up and shots,” Warner said. “They gave him an antibiotic shot and recommended some other things to try to reduce his stress.”
Warner was amazed that Koetters texted later that night to check on him. “It was so convenient and well worth it,” she said.
Koetters joined the Hometown Veterinary Clinic earlier this year after being hired by Springman, who bought the business from another veterinarian in 2014.
When the other vet first asked if Springman would be interested in taking over the mobile clinic, which he was operating out of a minivan at the time, she drove around with him for a day and was hooked.
“I thought: this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” said the New Orleans native who’s lived in Illinois for more than 15 years. “I was nervous at first because I wasn’t sure if we could support ourselves doing this.”
She needn’t have worried. Within six months, clients began spreading the word about the convenience, compassion and affordability of the service, and business picked up rapidly.
“We have many thousands of clients now, and we started with just a couple of hundred, if that,” Springman said. “The growth has been phenomenal.”
After being in business for about a month, Springman traded in the minivan for a specialized truck stocked with medical supplies, as well as an exam table, refrigerator and kennel. Initially, she performed surgeries in the truck before opening an office in 2015 at 7729 N. Crestline in Peoria.
She had planned to be at the office a few times a month to perform surgeries. However, the clientele continued to grow, with some preferring to bring their pets to the office, so Springman brought Koetters on board in August, mainly to treat overflow clients in the office by appointment only.
In keeping with the theme of the business, the office has a homey feel with one big room rather than separate exam rooms. “We get down on the floor with the pets. We don’t put them up on the table unless we absolutely have to. We play with them a little bit and do the same thing we do in their home,” Springman said.
Springman and Anne drive to an average of 12 appointments a day within about a 20-mile radius from the office. About 60 percent of the visits are annual check-ups and 40 percent are sick pets or medical management of chronic conditions. They also do end-of-life care, including euthanasia, when needed.
“We never know what a day’s going to be like and what we’re going to encounter. It’s so different from being in the controlled environment of a vet clinic,” Springman said.
“I honestly feel this is the future of veterinary medicine,” she added. “We have Amazon that comes to your house, and you can get groceries home delivered. That’s what people want. They don’t want to leave their house if they don’t have to.”
Noting that pets are also generally calmer and happier at home, Springman said mobile visits are smoother and cost about the same as visiting a traditional veterinarian’s office.
“In the home, the pet is not stressed at all,” she said. “Most of the time they don’t even know we gave them shots or anything.”
Another benefit is being able to see where the animal lives, plays, eats, sleeps and goes to the bathroom. “I get more information from that than you can possibly imagine,” Springman said.
Kirsten Evans of Peoria found Hometown Veterinary Clinic on the internet about three years ago and has been very pleased with their annual visits to check up on her three dogs, Shandy, Hazel and Moo.
“We especially appreciate them coming to our home and not having to load up shedding dogs in our car,” Evans said. “Our dogs are calmer for them, and we are not introducing new germs by taking our dogs out of the house or yard. The veterinarian and her assistant are so easy to contact, either by text, messaging or phone calls, and they always respond promptly.”
Evans said they had one elective surgery done at the office, but the follow-up was done in the home, which was less stressful for everyone. “I find their charges to be in line with other veterinarians in the area, so the added bonus of coming to our home has been most convenient and appreciated,” she added. “The service has been a godsend to us.”
Springman was approached last year by a production company interested in filming her for a reality television show on mobile vets, but she declined the offer for fear it would interfere with her work with her clients.
As another example of how unique the Hometown Veterinary Clinic is, they throw their clients a Christmas party every year and give out awards, such as largest kitty, biggest goofball, best couch potato and best cat sitter.
“It’s a lot of fun. We give them awards and gifts to show appreciation and give back to those people who keep us employed. I think that’s important,” Springman said.
For more information about Hometown Veterinary Clinic, visit the clinic’s Facebook page or website at www.vetcareanywhere.com or call 309-210-6368.