Humane Society treats animals of families that can’t afford veterinary care

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Just by looking, you couldn’t tell what’s different about Pocko and the other dogs, cats and pets that each Monday stream into the Humane Society of Sonoma County’s veterinary clinic.

Pocko, a geriatric Yorkshire terrier found wandering in Guerneville following the floods, and the clinic’s other Monday clients all belong to human families that are extremely poor. The animals’ guardians have so little disposable income that their pets’ oftentimes serious and distressing health issues might well go untreated were it not for this weekly, pay-what-you-can clinic.

The public response to February’s opening of the Community Veterinary Clinic has been dramatic. More pet owners show up or call for appointments than can be seen in just one day per week.

“We’re already booked well into May,” said Dr. Sarah Reidenbach, the clinic’s overseeing veterinarian.

The Humane Society is eager to grow the service so that more low-income pet owners can make use of it. But such an expansion will require greater community support of the young clinic.

“We simply don’t have enough money to keep up with all of the animals that need to be seen,” Reidenbach said.

Pocko came in on a recent Monday in the arms of Kelley Yeich, who’d found him after the Russian River flooding and tried without success to find his home.

Yeich adopted Pocko and discovered that he was in dire need of medical care that at standard veterinary rates would be out of her reach. Yeich took Pocko to the once-a-week, sliding-scale clinic at the Humane Society on Highway 12 between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol.

The clinic staff discovered that Pocko suffered with several diseased teeth and an oral fistula, an abnormal opening that can allow food and water to pass from the mouth to the nasal cavity. It’s not a good thing.

Pocko’s bad teeth were pulled and the fistula repaired.

Deeply grateful, Yeich paid what she was able to.

Many of the pets that come into each Monday’s Community Veterinary Clinic come with dental trouble.

“The thing with dentistry is it takes a lot of time,” said Reidenbach, the managing veterinarian.

In its first two months in operation, the clinic also has seen many animals with chronic but treatable conditions, including diabetes, coronary disease and hyperthyroidism.

Humane Society staff members seek to expand the service an additional day, and they’re asking the community’s help to cover the costs.

There is a crowdfunding campaign at

When they dream, folks at the Humane Society dream. They see someone step up and offer to underwrite some or all of the $100,000 to $150,000 needed to operate an expanded clinic for a year.

Reidenbach noted that those dollars are in addition to the substantial amount, about $100,000, that the Humane Society expects to receive each year in payments for services from the Sonoma County animal lovers who bring their pets in for care.

“People are not coming in for a free ride,” the vet said. “They are paying what they can.”

You can reach Columnist Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 or

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