Who We Are, What We Do - An Interview on Value
"PRACTICE OF THE YEAR"
Practice History and Leadership
1) How long has the practice been in operation?
The Animal Hospital of Cambridge opened its doors April 15th2004. Our goal was to provide 7 day a week patient care for the community and to also provide a safe haven especially after hours and on weekends for animals that are sick or provide help for owners who could not afford after hour care.
2) Has the practice expanded over its lifetime? If so, please describe.
Yes – we started with 2 full time Veterinarians, 1 Customer Service Rep, and 1 RVT.
Our current staff consists of 15 Veterinarians, 12 Registered Veterinary Technicians, 2 Veterinary Technicians, 12 Customer Service Reps and 5 Animal Care Aides. We have undergone one major expansion/renovation in the last few years and will soon be moving to a new location. In February 2018 we will be moving to a 13,500 sq foot hospital located at 621 Hespeler Rd. Our staff is looking forward providing continued care in our more spacious location.
We feel our strength is our people – we ALWAYS do everything we can to help and that's a big part of why we have grown. That means even when someone walks in who has no financial means to provide medical or surgical care for their pet – we help. Some animals are surrendered to our rescue program. We hire people willing to give back – and who are willing to provide that extra awesome special attention customer service to our clients.
When we opened our doors we promised to help one animal per day who was ownerless or unwanted. We decided not to focus on money – and we still believe if we do the right thing the money will be there to pay everyone for their hard work.
3)Who currently owns the practice?
The practice is owned by husband & wife team; Dr. Neil Kennedy & Dr. Kathy Hrinivich
4) Has ownership changed over the practice’s lifetime? How many times, when, etc.
Ownership has not changed since opening in 2004. We have formed friendships with lots of our clients over the years and hope to keep that going on a continual basis.
5) How many pets does the practice see annually?
On an annual basis we see lots of dogs & cats, many who began with us as puppy and kittens and are now senior pets. Annually we have seen pets for 34,602 visits .....for everything from regular vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery to more involved surgery or hospitalization due to illness.
6)Has the practice (or have any employees) won any local or national awards
1.Dr. Sarah Thompson - February 2014 : Appointed to Council for the CVO
2.Readers choice awards: for Dr. Kathy Hrinivich and for our clinic
Each year since we've been nominated and have won which makes us happy to know we make pet owners happy.
3. Dr. Kathy Hrinivich was featured in The Record. Printed in the Waterloo region.
4. Stacey Ortwein was the first Registered Veterinary Technician hired when we opened our practice in 2004. In February of 2015 she received her 20 Years of service RVT pin from the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians along side her best friend Sharon. Most recently she has received her 25 year pin.
5. In the year 2000, Stacey Ortwein, RVT graduated from the Canadian Veterinary Dental Technician program, the first of it's kind offered in our area by Dr. Fraser Hale who is a Board- Certified Veterinary Specialist.
6. We received AAHA Accreditation March 2015. This designation means our hospital is not only subjected to inspection by the CVO every 5 years..... on top of that we will also have to continually pass 900 check points by the AAHA every 3 years. We must meet or exceed their standard levels and expectations. We are committed to performing to the highest standard of care.
About the Practice
1) Describe the services you offer to clients.
-7 day a week patient care – with walk in emergency services available – we guarantee we will see you the same day if you have a pet emergency and you are a client with us
- Vaccinations & Examinations
- In- house and referral Laboratory Services for Blood/Urine/Feces/Cytology
- Ultrasound on site for in house Ultrasonography
- Digital radiography with radiologist consults as well as dental digital radiography with same
- Separate Dental Suite
(photo's from our original location 600 Hespeler Rd)
- Free nutritional consultations and Free prescription pet food delivery for homes in Cambridge
- In hospital adoptions – we have saved over 3000 animals since we opened and adopted them out the the community, our rescue program is officially called the " Safe & Sound Rescue Project - Veterinarian's Giving Back"
- Board-Certified surgeon with over 20 years experience on staff
- House call mobile service fully licensed
-TPLO and other orthopedic surgeries by Board-Certified Surgeon
- Dedicated recovery techs ( nurse) for after surgery and constant full anesthetic monitoring with one of our trained RVT’s who provide an extra element of safety when your pet is under general anesthesia using visual cues and full monitoring equipment to monitor your pets critical vital signs. (Cardell monitor, IV Fluid Pump, Blood Pressure Monitor, Pulse-Oxygen Monitor, Warm Water Blanket for body comfort/warmth, Apalert)
-Grooming 5 days a week for both dogs & cats
- Online Shopping via Webstore
- 3 Month, No Payment, 0% Interest OAC Payment Plans via Fairstone, Scratchpay options
- Soft tissue and Orthopedic Surgeries done on-site
2) What are the practice’s particular areas of expertise?
Providing Emergency and Surgery Services – we advertise a walk in clinic and daytime emergency services available for small animals
Rescue – we work with Kitchener Waterloo Humane Society and provide them with emergency services (they intake around 4500 animals a year so it’s a big pile of emergencies) – we also work with municipal pounds, other rescues, shelters, emergency clinics and other vets to take in abandoned injured or ill animals and help them
We fund our rescue ourselves with profit from the practice being put back into the system and ask no one for help. On occasion we are blessed by a client donation.
3)Is the hospital AAHA-accredited? If so, how long has it been?
Yes, since March 2015
4) Is it a Cat-Friendly Practice, as recognized by AAFP?
We are on the cusp of accreditation for this – just waiting for the paperwork
We currently implement Feliway pheromone use and have a few people on staff that we consider our cat whisperers. We are super cat friendly and understand their independent nature. We will work at their speed to keep them as comfortable and calm as possible while they visit with us. ** TIP : Feliway is available in a 20ml bottle or box of wipes which can be used in your cat's carrier 15 minutes before travel in the car to help create a calming feeling and help them adjust to this easier.
5) What other attributes set the practice apart as a hospital (emergency hours, LEED certified, etc.)?
-Our extensive hours 8am – 9pm providing same-day appointments.
-We provide our clients with the option for a payment plan in the event it is needed -OAC, 3 month no payment, no interest payment plan.
-Since we have been open we have always taken in animals in need of medical care to our rescue program, now officially called the"Safe & Sound Rescue Project – Veterinarians Giving Back”. Our rescue really is what defines us – we hope to offer sort of a template so other practices can incorporate rescue into their practices and see how unbelievably rewarding it is, how you attract the right people, how much you can help, and how much your business will grow. We are more than happy to share our success and how we have done it – because every practice has someone walk into their doors with a parvo puppy whose owner has no money – every owner is faced with the same problem – what do I do? what do we do ? If I do it for free for these guys will the floodgates open and I will be stormed with clients who cant afford care – and then we wouldn't be able to keep things running. If I euthanize this puppy will my staff hate me – will I sleep tonight. We don’t euthanize any of them – we help them all even if it means the pet has to be surrendered into our program and then re-homed when it is better
-We have grown so much we can now provide more specialized surgeries and treatments on site
-Our in-house Idexx lab station has just been upgraded so we can run 3 samples at the same time for quicker results.
– We have access to a couple Boarded-Certified Surgeon that performs surgery on-site and consults on cases. They also contribute time to help repair rescued pets in our program.
- We invest money back into getting new up to date equipment and training for our staff
-The owners of our practice have over 20 years of veterinary experience. Our senior associate veterinarians have a combined 37 years (20, 12, 5 years) of veterinary experience.
-We will hire only qualified RVT’s to assist our veterinarians for appointment services, nursing care and surgical / patient monitoring because we feel RVT’s provide that added level of safety and care to all aspects of veterinary medicine.
-We are MASSIVE BELIEVERS in pet insurance!! Every single day we see the consequences when someone brings us a broken or sick animal with no insurance and although we always do everything we can to help – we believe our profession and every animal lover out there needs to scream it from the rooftops – INSURANCE HELPS!! Every new puppy or kitten we see gets a FREE 4-6 week TRIAL of pet insurance. There is a huge number of pet insurance companies out there - there are many trials available , some for pets 8 weeks up to 14 years. Ask for a trial today ! We definitely discuss pet insurance with all of our clients so they can make an informed decision for their pet. Pet insurance gives piece of mind that if something big happens you will have help financially. We NEED this to be the new norm. Every pet in their first year of life should have a pet insurance policy because you can't predict accidents or illnesses. You want to enrol before a health issue starts... otherwise it will be excluded from your policy. See how the first year goes...... If you have a dog with chronic ear infections... you'll be glad you took our advice and invested in insurance. We still cant believe how many patients we see with emergencies who were just at their regular hospital and no one has spoken to them about pet insurance. We train our staff on the importance and benefit pet insurance can give to owners and can provide our clients with a list of companies to inquire from. You can also visit the pet insurance review site for more information.
6) What is the practice’s mission statement?
Our goal is to provide the utmost devoted veterinary care in a personable and accommodating manner by focusing on wellness diagnostics, compassionate treatment of animals, while maintaining a pleasant and safe work environment. We are committed to the bond between our clients, their pets and our team by merging the most current veterinary medicine with practicality and common sense. We promise to inform our clients in all aspects and options available for the care and treatment of their beloved family member. We will help our clients to make educated and compassionate decisions about their pet with the guidance of our Veterinary team. We choose to provide our team with continuing education opportunities, and thereby be able to provide excellent care and customer service. Our goal is to go above and beyond in hopes that we may meet the needs of our clients & their pets 7 days a week. We pride ourselves in keeping a clean hospital environment and to be as efficient with appointments times as is possible. We promise to donate a percentage of our profits back into the community, to our " Safe and Sound Project – Veterinarians giving back”.
About the Team
1) How many veterinarians, vet techs, support staff, administrators, etc. are employed (full and part time)?
10 Veterinarians ( 9 Fulltime/ 1 Part-time) 13 Veterinary Technicians, 12 which are RVT’s ( 11 Full-time, plus 1 Full-time RVT and 1 VT who also work in management as well as a tech when required) , 9 CSR ( 5 full-time , 4 part-time) , 3 ACA’s ( part-time) In the summer months we will provide part-time staff with more hours or hire summer students.
2)Are any of the doctors Board Certified, and how many of the staff are CVT, LVT, RVT or CVPM
Dr. Anne Sylvestre, BSc, DVM, DVSc, CCRP, Dip ACVS, Dip ECVS
Dr. Tom Gibson DVM,DVSc,DACVS SA, DACVSMR of GRVSS on site
1 CVDT RVT, Stacey Ortwein earned her CVDT diploma via Dr. Fraser Hales Canadian Veterinary Dental Technician Program
Dr Kathy Hrinivich, Dr Neil Kennedy – certified in abdominal ultrasound
3)Do you offer regular staff training? If so, how often, and please give an example.
Each new staff member does receive initial training and orientation of our practice, health & safety information, and about its veterinary software.
We also incorporate training into every staff meeting and "round" with each other twice daily for ongoing daily training and communication
We will set aside time to do role plays weekly so that we can make sure everyone is giving the same message.
Each member receives and electronic version of our hospital policies and procedures manual.
Throughout the year we bring in industry experts so we can keep up to date on veterinary information relating to pet care and nutrition and provide " lunch & learn" opportunities typically these happen about every 2ndweek depending on the season.
We often send "virtual staff meeting” notes by email to keep our large staff current and in the loop.
We also send each one of our doctors to a major continuing education conference per year all expenses paid and they are asked to bring back topics to present to the group so that we can all learn.
All RVT’s attend a conference every other year and are asked to present learned information to the group.
Management attends AAHA and specific seminars or CE events locally which seem relevant
4)Do you offer internal staff/team-building activities? If so, please describe.
We encourage our staff to vote for other staff members in our Bravo Bonus Competition. Its such a simple thing – but its huge - everyone has a chance to write a quick note and give a little shout out to someone they work with. For instance this morning one of our volunteers took a few extra minutes to cuddle a little rescue puppy who was a bit fearful after her exam – she was leaving and late for school but she stopped and just reassured this little puppy that life is good and she is loved – that little extra level of caring is so wonderful to see in our staff. All of our staff care like that – they put their patients and their co workers happiness in front of their own and they all pull together – so it’s a great forum to make sure we all know how much we appreciate each other every single day.
Every 3 months we choose a winner, but at the same time acknowledge all the complements to all staff via an email so that everyone will know the great things they have done to make our hospital a better place or to increase patient care. Dr. Kathy says, " It's funny because no matter how many emails you get in a day….when that bravo bonus competition summary comes bleeping through your email – everyone stops to take time to read it and smiles. We started it the day we opened our practice and I have kept every one of those emails archived since."
We also do "rounds" daily and we create project or focus groups – so for example currently we have four projects running – each group will consist of a team leader (doesn’t have to be a vet), usually an rvt or two, CSR and an ACA and or student. One of our project groups is called "Mission Pet Nutrition" and they have been assigned the task of rebuilding our Nutrition education center in our practice and polishing up our ‘nutrition toolkit’. At least that’s how it started – then in no time that group comes to management and owners with ideas of how we can spread the word to our clients about important pet information and asks….. "what do you guys think about ensuring all team members have toured the Royal Canin manufacturing plant in Guelph, Ontario so they can better understand how the foods we recommend are prepared." Or they might say, " can we post some of celebrity veterinarian, Dr. Ernie Wards new dental information or pet weight loss information on our Facebook page ?"
This team was given a list of objectives and goals and a target completion date. Then basically we have learned to stand back and let them fly - there is a lot of passion for learning about pet care and talent for sharing it with staff and clients.
5) How often are performance reviews or evaluations done?
Evaluations take place after the 1st 3 months of employment,and then annually.
6) How are team members recognized, promoted and rewarded?
Daily the staff is thanked for a job well done either in person or by email. We appreciate the efforts of everyone on the staff because each role is just as important as another. Promotions only happen if other staff move on from our hospital, otherwise we all play our role within the team.
Bravo Bonus every 3 months Draw for a prize. Email sent to all staff to read complements.
Pizza lunch is purchased by Dr. Kathy & Dr. Neil on extremely busy days.
Monetary bonus’s are given out as a whole or individually to say thank you for a job well done.
This year the staff got FitBits for working so hard during a busy heartworm season. The staff has connected on fitness challenges which is another team building experience.
We also waive professional service fees on all staff pets who don’t have insurance. All new pets have insurance allowance.
We also feature a staff member of the month in advertising or newsletters.
We host a crazy xmas party where all spouses, kids and family are invited to come out to Dr. Kathy & Dr. Neil's home. Every child gets a big huge monster truck or a life sized doll house to unwrap (something totally insane for each child). Dr. Kathy enjoys the happiness it brings the children and their parents. Our employee's will also receive a gift and a little extra money in their Christmas Card. Dr. Kathy & Dr. Neil want the staff to know how much they appreciate their commitment to our hospital and for providing their clients with great care.
7) What is the greatest challenge that the practice has faced, and how did the team overcome it?
I think the biggest challenge we, as well as other clinics who have been around for 10+ years have faced as a practice and as a profession is the massive number of smaller, low fee hospitals who have joined our community and others. We work very hard to be great neighbours. We have done our best to work with them and offer support for some of the harder medical cases or surgery that is needed for the pet that they may not do.
When people are calling around for prices we are not the lowest and we are not the highest. Having the extensive hours of 8am to 9pm seven days a week in a larger facility that provides a larger staff to accommodate the convenience of same-day appointments comes at a little premium. The extra steps and follow up care we hope will speak for itself. We put the animals needs first... pain control is not optional. We will treat your pet as though they are our own.
How do people who are calling around know if they are comparing apples to apples when they can't see through the phone, or behind the scenes ? How would people know that Dr. Kathy cares so much, she will take sick rescues home and nurse them back to health, and when they are better find them a new home. (Like the litter of 5 Border Collie Crosses we took in September 2015)
How will people know about all the little extra things we add to our services in the best interest of the patient to add value to our services ? One way - is by clients and potential clients reading this interview. Another idea is to invite everyone in for a tour of our hospital so they can see the inner workings of what we do, see the diagnostic and monitoring equipment we have and to meet the wonderful certified staff we provide for patient care.
We do not criticize or judge anyone – instead we believe in working together to help as many animals and owners as we can. We will work with owners to determine what course of treatment or care they want for their pet and we will work within their budget. What is important to us in the end is that the pet got care. We sent around a letter to every hospital in our community (50 km radius) to let them know who we are and what we do. That we are here to help with those pets who need care.
So what have we done to overcome it – we are still working on it – because this is our new normal and we believe we are better to be partners. Insurance is a big part of the solution.
8) What has been the most exciting advancement in the practice’s most recent 5-year history?
Becoming AAHA accredited – being held to over 900 standards to receive that awarded membership. And also continuing to grow in the worst economy veterinarians in Canada have seen in our lifetime. We can only attribute that to people choosing us for the level of care and convenience they want for pet care. Life is busy, prevention of health issues is key so we hope to work around your schedule and make it easy to see us at a moments notice. Our Petly system allows our clients to have access to their pets medical care, book and confirm appointments all from their computer or smartphone.
Community Pet Health Advocacy
1) How does the practice encourage pet health & wellness compliance among clients?
Social media, our website and good old fashioned client communication.
By our staff educating clients when they are in for an appointment or if they phone in for information. We try to work within both worlds – those tech saavy smart phone users and social media masters – but also we LOVE to pick up the phone or speak with people who stop by our hospital. Sometimes we will stop in the grocery store to chat with clients and give our clients the time they need to ask questions or to help them make pet care decisions.
Occasional newsletters. Please be sure to leave us your email address !
2) How do you share pet health information, either in the practice or online?
-info boards in exam rooms
-up to date website – news section
-daily updating our facebook page/ twitter
-providing handouts from VIN, Vet Partner.com, Brochures
-Via Petly ( on line portal to personal pet page) offered by Idexx
3) How does the practice help promote pet health to the public (beyond your clients)?
We do post adds in the Cambridge times and KW record. On facebook and twitter. We participate in the Hespleler Santa Claus parade every year. We also have several vehicles logo’d in the community. We participate in Womens Crisis programs and shelter animals from abusive situations.
4)Do you ask your clients for reviews or feedback, either at the clinic or online ?
People can give us a review using a survey following their appointment with us. – which also promotes reviews on google.
People can write a review on our facebook page.
People can write a review from a link on our website.
People can email us with any complements or concerns to our clinic email address which will be addressed by management. email@example.com
5) Does the practice participate in any community events, either pet-related or not?
Hespeler Santa Claus Parade – passing out dog and cat treats to the community.
We often donate prize baskets to local fundraising events.
We had a Halloween party 2014 Open House
Booked professional photographer days
6)Is the practice affiliated with any rescues, shelters or other nonprofit pet organizations?
We have our own rescue program - "The Safe and Sound Rescue Project – Veterinarians Giving Back”- this is a not for profit we started that gives other hospitals and emergency hospitals a place to send surrendered animals to, We have also assisted other shelters with medical care for KW Humane Society, Hamilton SPCA, and the CHS when requested.
7) Describe the practice’s presence on and approach to social media. (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.)
We currently use Facebook, instagram and twitter as our main methods of social media.
8)Does the practice hold regular (annual, biannual, etc.) open houses? If yes, please describe.
We have held open houses in the past but not on an annual basis. Our last open house was a Halloween party in 2014. It was great to see clients come in with their pets dressed up. We had a professional photographer, food and drinks, face painting and activities for kids. More recently we held a 1 year OPEN HOUSE Anniversary party at our new location 621 Hespeler Road in 2019.
1) What are the practice’s goals for the next year, five years and 10 years?
More of the same – to provide our clients with exceptional customer service, and building great friendships while providing extensive hours and same day appointments.
We are have purchased some commercial land right around the corner from our practice and are building a beautiful state of the art new hospital with boarding and a small dog off leash park. Clients will be able to bring their small dogs for socialization and play time without fear of injury. We will also be offering free meeting space to other not for profits in the community and really welcoming the community into our practice. We love our clients and we want to share our success and really let our community see who we are and what we do. Our rescue defines us and we have had such incredible love and support from this area – we want to give back
2) What is the greatest challenge that you see in the clinic’s future?
Out growing our building space. We are busting at the seams and we could help even more rescues so we need a bigger space
3) Conversely, what is the greatest opportunity that you see in the clinic’s future?
We want to increase the number of pets eating veterinary exclusive pet food. We want to educate clients on the safety, nutritional benefits for optimal health and disease management and make it easily accessible via our webstore. We want to make protecting pets from fleas& ticks easier and will be introducing a new service called My Vetbox. In light of COVID we have established an online vet service called ahoctelemedicine.ca
1. If we are the PetplanWinner, the prize would include a $1,000 donation pet-related charity of your choice. Please tell us what organization the practice would choose to receive your donation:
We would put the money toward the medical costs incurred by our in hospital rescue program. More specifically we would put it towards the hospitalization / nursing care and housing for thelitter of 5 Border Collies that all suffered from the Parvo virus this past September 2015. ( see photos on our Facebook page)
A Bit of Fun
1) Do you have any "resident” pets at the clinic, or staff pets who visit frequently?
"Clark Kent "– kitty fell 10 story’s. He was brought to us from a shelter and accepted into our rescued pets program. He suffered pneumothorax and broke both front legs. He was repaired by the doctors at Animal Hospital of Cambridge , with help orthopedically
by Dr. Anne Sylvestre.
2) What is the funniest pet name your team has heard?
Skittles Dill Pickles ..... this is a name we will never forget because it is so original!
3)Tell us about a favorite clinic tradition:
At Christmas the staff get together at Dr. Kathy & Dr. Neil’s farm for a potluck dinner and gift exchange. It is so heartwarming to see the joy and happiness we share together at that time of year as a family.
4)If your practice collectively won $1 million in the lottery, how would you spend it?
We would upgrade and add to our medical equipment and then build a bigger area to keep our Safe & Sound Rescue Project going.
5)What would your practice’s theme song be?
‘Somethin big I feel it happening…’
6)If your team was a sports team, what would your mascot be?
A pack of chihuahua’s wearing tutu’s
Thank you for reading all the way through.
Making a difference matters.
Saving lives matters.
New patients are always welcome.
Thank you -
Dr.Kathy & Dr.Neil and the Staff at Animal Hospital of Cambridge