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Where the pet doctor is always in

New animal hospital fills 24-hour needs

May 26, 2009

Greenfield - People in dire need of emergency care for their pets anytime will have a local place to go.

Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals, 3670 S. 108th St., is set to open Monday, June 1, and will remain open - around the clock, 365 days a year.

Owner Marla Lichtenberger, who has practiced veterinary care for more than 20 years, chose Greenfield and Highway 100 because of its easy access from Interstate 894 and the lack of such hospitals in southern Milwaukee County, she said.

Pet owners often bring in animals needing immediate attention, so MECA's location can make it easier for residents who have little time to spare, Lichtenberger said.

Key location

"I knew there was definitely a need down in this area," said Lichtenberger, who has been recognized for her research on emergency care for small and exotic animals.

Residents have dropped by during construction to find out when it will open, Lichtenberger said.

And city officials said they were excited to give the business the go-ahead when it presented its plans last year.

"It clearly meets a need not only for pet owners in our city, but throughout the region as well," Mayor Michael Neitzke said in a news release.

Lichtenberger expects to draw clients from not only Greenfield, but Waukesha, Racine and Kenosha counties. The hospital will likely be at its busiest on weekends, when employees typically expect to see 60 to 70 cases, she said.

Hospital setting

As construction crews continued to work inside the 10,000-square-foot facility last week, it didn't look much different than a hospital that pet owners would go to.

MECA has seven exam rooms, two surgery rooms, a lab, an X-ray room and an intensive-care unit. It also has special rooms for exotic animals and animals with infectious diseases.

Pet owners will have the option of fluid therapy, blood products and state-of-the-art anesthesia. Eight doctors are among the 29 people Lichtenberger hired, from a pool of 250 applicants, to staff the hospital.

A caring clinic

When Lichtenberger decided to open the animal hospital, "client service" was more than just a buzzword. It would be her fundamental approach to designing MECA.

Lichtenberger said she got tired of bad customer service at hospitals and veterinary clinics and wanted her animal hospital to be different.

Different as in baking cookies for waiting pet owners and decorating bathrooms with flowered wallpaper - small things that Lichtenberger believes can help calm down worried pet owners.

Front-desk staffers will not answer phones. Instead, the hospital has a separate phone room so employees can aptly serve the needs of clients in the lobby.

It's all part of "getting back to the old style" Lichtenberger hopes will keep pet owners around Greenfield at ease when they're at their most distressed.

Mark Schaaf can be reached at (262) 446-6605.

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