UNION COUNTY, NJ — For six years, three rotating veterinarians, one vet technician and one driver from the Associated Humane Societies have provided medical care to animals in Union County and beyond from a van, a service to pet owners who don’t have the money to pay a regular veterinarian or go to an animal hospital.
“We have heard everything from $400 to $800 for spay/neuter at a regular veterinary office,” AHS van program coordinator Debbie Beyfuss said in an interview on Tuesday, Aug. 29. “We do not include an office visit on the mobile, which keeps the price low. You only pay for the service you need, so if that is just a $10 nail trim, that is what you will pay.”
The mobile unit works to reduce animal overpopulation and lessen the number of critically ill animals left at shelters. According to the AHS, it is common for pet owners to surrender animals to a shelter because they cannot afford expensive medical care or hospitalization costs.
The highest fee charged by the program is to spay a female dog under 50 pounds: $105.
During the month of August, the van twice made calls to areas of Elizabeth, Clark and Plainfield, while also visiting Linden once. The service hopes to expand to Rahway soon, Beyfuss said.
Anderson Pierre, an AHS employee from Linden, told LocalSource that in addition to Union County, the mobile van covers most of New Jersey, traveling across northern and southern areas; performs an average of 12 to 13 operations per day and issues approximately 20 to 30 vaccines.
All animals that are spayed or neutered, services that require advanced scheduling, also have their nails clipped, ears cleaned and receive a tattoo showing their alteration.
Additionally, the van offers wellness services on a first-come, first-served basis, after the surgeries are finished for the day. Wellness services include vaccinations, check-ups, microchipping, ear and hair removal and many others.
The AHS is a nonprofit organization that originated in 1907 and is comprised of shelters located in Newark, Tinton Falls and Forked River. The Forked River facility includes Popcorn Park, a federally licensed zoo that doubles as a sanctuary for abandoned, injured, abused or elderly wildlife, exotic, farm animals and birds.
The AHS mobile van was acquired through a $200,000 grant in 2010 from the John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation.
According to Beyfuss, the van’s mission is to provide the best possible care for animals at a low cost.
“In low income areas the AHS mobile van is the only veterinarian service people see and can afford,” she said.