When the Center for Veterinary Expertise (COVE) opened in May 2012, the 24/7 emergency and specialist veterinary hospital was the only independent practice of its kind in Suffolk, surrounded by a handful of other clinics offering various models of urgent care. Some were company-owned, while others were independently owned, but didn’t offer the breadth and depth of services or 24-hour coverage.
Today, many of these companies have been discontinued, and The COVE remains the region’s only independently owned and operated emergency and specialty animal hospital. The practice has flourished, building up a large and growing list of clients and referring veterinarians.
To what do the founders attribute The COVE’s success over the past decade?
“We’ve built this practice on the core values of community, collaboration, commitment, compassion, and integrity,” said Jeff T. Stallings, DVM, DACVS, a board-certified veterinary surgeon who has co-founded The COVE. “Our priority has always been to apply these values to provide the best possible care for our beloved pets, not to optimize shareholder outcomes.
“This unwavering care ensures that pets, the people who love them, and their primary care veterinarians have as positive and supportive healthcare experiences as possible despite the sometimes difficult circumstances that bring us together. Our longevity bears witness to the validity of this orientation.
Co-Founder Merrilee T. Small, DVM, DACVIM, Certified Veterinary Cardiologist, added, “Our Core Values have also always guided how we honor and invest in our team. This has allowed us to attract and retain an exceptional team of highly skilled professionals over the past 10 years.
Since its founding, The COVE has quadrupled the size of its team to over 115 staff members. In addition to Drs. Stallings and Small, it includes Colleen Fox, DVM, CSAVP Dentistry, one of the few veterinarians in the area trained to provide advanced dentistry and oral surgery services. The team also has the equivalent of 10 full-time veterinarians covering hospital and outpatient emergency departments 24 hours a day. The team is complemented by licensed veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants and customer service personnel.
COVE has handled more than 106,300 patient visits over the past decade and has treated illnesses and injuries ranging from persistent coughs to major trauma. It has drawn patients from as far away as Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Emporia, Richmond, and the East Coast.
Another COVE initiative that reflects the core values of the practice is its Helping Animals Together (HAT) fund.
“This charitable fund allows us to provide financial support to critical patients who have an excellent prognosis but who might otherwise be euthanized due to their owners’ financial limitations to pay in full,” said Danielle T. Russ, LVT, BS, BA , AS , hospital administrator. “I’m proud to say that since its inception in 2014, the fund has raised over $30,000.
COVE also supports the Suffolk area by participating in a range of local pet friendly events including Bark in the Park, Move Your Mutt, K9 and Kids Camp, Passion for Paws Picnic and Mutt Strutt. Additionally, The COVE is proud to be a Platinum Sponsor of the Hampton Roads Pet Loss Partnership, a non-profit organization that provides emotional support to individuals and families experiencing or anticipating the loss of a well-being pet. love.
Another example of how The COVE is walking the walk when it comes to its core values - specifically ‘commitment’ and ‘community’ – is the fact that, with the exception of an evening to celebrate its staff , the practice has remained open 24/7 throughout the COVID -19 pandemic.
“When we say we’re here for this community, we mean it,” Stallings said.
What’s on the horizon for The COVE’s next 10 years?
“We are excited to expand our facility and recruit more specialists and quality team members,” said Small, referring to providing veterinary care consistent with the practice’s core values. “We succeeded because we responded to the needs of our community. This will never change.