A local man faces eviction if his cat isn’t immediately vaccinated and spayed. He has no money … and this is his “baby.”

A couple of weeks ago, this was an untenable position for many pet owners in the Florida Keys. Now, the Florida Keys SPCA has an alternative: The Dogwood Wellness Clinic at 5711 College Rd., Key West,  where members of the public can bring in their own animals to be treated for basic issues — a rabies vaccination ($15 for a dog), or a feline leukemia vaccination ($25 for a cat) or even a simple nail trim ($15).

“Now that we have the larger clinic in the new building, we can offer these affordable wellness services,” said Tammy Fox, executive director of the FKSPCA. “Some pet owners want to be able to make sure their animals shots are up to date, or have them tested for heartworm, but they just can’t afford that cost.”

Fox said the FKSPCA has been raising money diligently to underwrite the new clinic, securing grants and soliciting private donations.

Initially, the clinic will be open Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. beginning next week, Feb. 27-28. The animals and humans will be seen on a first-come, first-serve basis. The situation is fluid, though, as shelter staff gauges demand.

“This is a soft opening,” said FKSPCA board chairman Jeff Johnson. “We may expand to offer appointments or extra days. So far, everything is working well in the trial runs.” 

The FKSPCA has been offering low-cost and free spay and neuter services for more than 20 years in the Florida Keys and will continue to do so. But before the new Key West building was completed in 2019, the space was cramped and the shelter had difficulty keeping up with the community’s demand for those services.

“And we needed better clinic facilities for the shelter animals. For example, cases where an animal was hit by a car or an animal arrives with a sudden, catastrophic illness, we can provide those services on the premises now,” Johnson said. And with a professionally staffed and stocked clinic, the shelter has the ability to offer extra services to members of the public and their pets.

Veterinarian Debbie Marks has come out of a semi-retirement to head the Dogwood Wellness Clinic. She is a board-certified vet who has worked in Florida, Iowa and overseas. Johnson said her specialty, dental care for animals, is crucial.

“Dental problems can be the primary cause of all sorts of diseases, particularly heart disease,” said Johnson. 

The FKSPCA intends to work hand-in-hand with other animal care providers in the Florida Keys. Johnson said he canvassed about 40 nonprofit shelters around the country to ask about the services they provide.

“What we found is that incidences of common diseases went down when these low-cost clinics started operating,” he said. “When the shelter or nonprofit finds a serious problem, the owners and pets are referred to a local vet for treatment in a timely manner. It’s a win-win.”

Debbie Marks said, “We are so lucky to live in such a supportive community to give help to those who need it — human or animal.”

For more information about the Dogwood Wellness Center, or for pricing, visit fkspca.org and click on the “clinic services” tab or call 305-294-4857.


Save the date: The FKSPCA is having its 13th annual Spring Social on Friday, March 20 at the Key West Golf Course. Purchase tickets at keystix.com.

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