Brunswick animal shelter to take high-tech care on the road

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BRUNSWICK — The Coastal Humane Society acquired a mobile surgery unit last week that will enhance the quality of care for animal patients near the Society’s offices in Brunswick and Edgecomb.

The state-of-the-art operating room on wheels will replace a surgical station at Range Road in Brunswick that staff veterinarian Dr. Mandie Wehr said lacks adequate room and amenities to achieve the nonprofit’s ideal standard of care.

More importantly, the mobile unit will allow Wehr to perform procedures in Edgecomb, at the Lincoln County Animal Shelter, which does not have a surgical facility.

Clients there must travel more than 20 miles to Brunswick to receive the care they need – a stressful trip for animals and pets, particularly kittens, that are already under duress, Wehr said.

The mobile unit was the shelter’s alternative to a more costly option that would have built surgical stations at both locations.

It cost $238,000, was designed by the Ohio-based company La Boit, and was paid for with help from a $50,000 grant from the PetCo Foundation. An anonymous donor also matched private donations up to $90,000.

“It’s going to be a lot to get used to,” Wehr said, as she joked about affixing an “I Love My Cat” sticker to the rear bumper.

Performing surgery on animals follows nearly the same protocols as humans, she explained, only there’s “a lot more shaving of fur.”

She stood in the hull of the unit, which, in the tradition of a Swiss army knife, houses areas and equipment for every stage of the surgical process.

The compact layout contains a pre-surgical and exam station, two surgical tables, and a wall of recovery kennels into its modest, mid-sized body.

It also features equipment the shelter lacks at Range Road, including an X-ray machine and kennels for convalescing animals.

Wehr, who has been in Brunswick for six years, but has worked all over the country, specializes in shelter medicine.

“When you have 200 animals, when one gets sick, they’re all going to get sick,” she said. “You’re trying to provide those animals individual care, as well as develop widespread practices and procedures to serve an entire population.”

Wehr performs more than 1,700 surgeries a year – about 30 a day – the majority to neuter cats and dogs. Animals in Maine must be neutered or spayed to be legally adopted – an example of what Wehr described as the state’s progressive animal welfare laws.

The second surgical table will help make surgeries more efficient, Wehr said, enabling a clinical aid to prepare an animal while Wehr is still performing surgery.

In her current set-up, the lag time between procedures siphons away time she can spend on other forms of patient care – an aspect of treatment the shelter values.

“We’re really fortunate to be able to do so much for our animals here,” Wehr said.

That is in part because Maine has a smaller number of strays than areas of the country with more relaxed laws and larger stray populations; Brunswick and Edgecomb only take in about 5,000 animals a year.

That pales in comparison to places in the South, Wehr said, where shelters can take in around 30,000 animals a year and are often forced to euthanize close to half of them because of lack of space and lack of available foster homes.

The Coastal Humane Society has a 97 percent live release rate, and per its policy, does not euthanize animals. More than 200 volunteers assist the staff in caring for and finding homes for the animals that need temporary shelter.

Lifting a 5-week-old kitten named Poof into the crook of her arm, Wehr said she expects to hit the road with the mobile surgery center in about two weeks.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Dr. Mandie Wehr, staff veterinarian at Brunswick’s Coastal Humane Society, holds 5-week-old kitten Poof in the shelter’s newly acquired mobile surgery unit. Poof’s twin, Spoof, couldn’t care less.

The Coastal Humane Society in Brunswick recently acquired this mobile surgery unit – an operating room on wheels that will upgrade and expedite service for pet patients at its Brunswick and Edgecomb locations.

Two surgical tables are stowed in the back of the Brunswick-based Coastal Humane Society’s recently acquired mobile surgery unit – an example of the compact layout in what is essentially an operating room on wheels.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.