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Fri., Aug. 22
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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Canadians cross border for cheaper pet care

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OGDENSBURG — Anne N. McLean, Chesterville, Ont., spent Tuesday with her three dogs - Sally, Ginger and Daisy - at Bridge Port Veterinary Clinic in Ogdensburg, where she said she got much cheaper pet care than she would have in Canada.

“The services are probably equal. It’s just the vet fees are really expensive in Canada,” she said. “They have excellent service here. I can’t complain.”

Ms. McLean said she’s been bringing her pets across the border for five years, because “the medication, the vet fees, the visit and everything is cheaper.”

Ms. McLean is one of many Canadians who cross the border for their pets.

Over the past year, several veterinary clinics in the county have experienced a large increase in Canadian clients, due to higher fees in pet care on their side of the border.

Mike W. Horton, Ogdensburg, is the animal handler and a receptionist for Veterinary Town and Country. He said he’s been working there about five years, but the past year has really exploded with Canadian clients.

“We have a lot of Canadian clients that probably make up about a third of our clientele,” he said. “We’re taking on a lot more new Canadian clients than new American ones, between five and 10 a day.”

Mr. Horton said that Canadian clients spread the word of cheaper pet care to friends and family who then bring their pets across the border as well.

Mr. Horton said people pay around $500 in Canada to get their pets spayed when some only pay $150 to $200 across the border.

“They’re getting slammed over there with vet bills,” he said. “They say they like the service over here. We’re fair and honest.”

One of the vets at Veterinary Town and Country, John P. Zeh, said he’s been a vet in the Ogdensburg area for 35 years.

“We have certain standards that we have to maintain in order to keep our license, and that’s what we do,” he said. “We charge what we feel we’re comfortable with and what people can afford.”

Mr. Zeh said that the prices at the clinic reflect that it is in an economically depressed area, a fact that he said he can relate to because so many of the people are his friends.

“I don’t want to say that I’m cheaper than anybody else and I don’t want to say I’m better than anyone else,” he said. “In this area, if you look at the state, the per capita income isn’t great, but a lot of people love pets. So, I just want to provide a service that people can afford.”

Some of his Canadian clients, however, would call the clinic better than options on their side of the border.

One of the clinic’s clients, Ann E. McParland, drove from Brockville, Ont., Tuesday for her 13-year-old cat Oliver, who was suffering from hyperthyroidism.

“The cat was very shy, but noticed and sensed their love and care,” she said. “He has a really bad thyroid, but they fixed him today, said to come back in a month when he should be better, gave us a prescription and it was all good.”

Ms. McParland said she wanted to take the cat to a clinic in Brockville, but it would have cost her four times more.

“I think they just want to make money,” she said. “It’s unfortunate because sometimes you don’t want to make your cat do the trip across, but it was 100 times worth it.”

Ms. McParland said the clinics she’s been to on both sides of the border sell exactly the same services, brands and products, but that they cost less on the U.S. side.

“They want to help your pet,” she said. “It’s not like they want to make money — that’s the difference.”

Vet clinics in Massena have seen some of the same increases in Canadian clients.

Joanne Gustafson, Massena, has worked as a receptionist for Java’s Veterinary Center, Massena, for four years.

“We’ve always had Canadian clients, but over the past year, it’s been a big increase,” she said. “Most of them are very happy with our services.”

Jennifer Swingle, Massena, works at St. Lawrence Valley Veterinary Clinic, 46 Willow St., Massena. She said veterinarian Cynthia J. Swingle has had Canadian clients for years, but lately, the practice has had more Canadians call the office to get estimates on services.

“We have had people call from Canada checking into services that we offer and prices, and they’ve commented that things are cheaper over here,” she said.

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