In this episode, Travis Boston, DVM; Lisa Kivett, DVM, MS, DACVIM; and Anna Hood, DVM, CVMMP, talk about the trials and tribulations of building an equine haul-in or hospital facility. They explain the biggest challenges they encountered throughout the process and share how they found time to practice during the build.
Equine Veterinary Clinic Construction Hurdles
Boston’s practice, Willow Creek Equine in Reading, Pennsylvania, recently moved into its new space after retrofitting an existing 14,000-square-foot building at a cost of about $2 million. He described the administrative headaches, cost overruns, and difficulties in meeting building codes. “It just seems like the project is so big, things seem to be forgotten, and then we have to go back to address them. Like the 30-year-old drain that no one thought to check if it was patent when you run a load of laundry.” Despite these issues, they are overjoyed to be in their new space.
Kivett, founder of Foundation Equine in Vass, North Carolina, built a new hospital building that was completed two years ago. She said despite thinking of every contingency before the construction began, there are things she would change if they could start over. In a lighthearted moment, she suggested this topic could be a whole podcast series by itself, with episodes such as “Permits: Why the Fire Marshall is Now My Sworn Mortal Enemy,” “Drains: An Endless Source of Regret,” “Water Heaters: Why Am I Now an Expert in This Subject,” and “Air Filters: The Topic I Now Discuss at Every Large Family Gathering.” Despite the issues, she and her team love their new practice facility.
Currently in the earliest phases of creating a haul-in facility, Hood lamented the inconsistencies in the information zoning officials have provided about the land she was considering purchasing. First, they told her there were no zoning issues. Before she closed on the property, she was made aware that her proposal would not be allowed by zoning regulations in that township. Then, a possible environmental issue emerged. She cautioned listeners of the emotional highs and lows that can accompany a project of this type.
When asked about the necessity of investing time into the building project, none of the three doctors minimized the commitment needed. “I just kind of ran myself ragged!” Kivett shared. She noted that as the building neared completion, she had to step back from practicing, in part because they needed to be ready to move out of the previous facility space. At the worst possible time, when the building renovation was nearly complete, Boston’s practice lost a veterinarian, so he and his partner were forced to take on more patient appointments, creating additional stress. Hood spoke about scheduling office time to speak with bankers, attorneys, builders, and zoning officials. She sang the praises of her veterinary technician, who went on technician appointments during this time to fulfill client needs.
In closing, Kivett recommended accepting the imperfection inherent in projects. Boston agreed and added that time estimates, delivery of quality products, and financial estimates are often disappointing and inaccurate. “Give yourself grace,” he said, reminding listeners the process of building is never smooth. “Prepare yourself mentally and financially for things to go badly.”
Hood said, “I don’t know if there is any way to really prepare yourself, but researching as much as possible is important.” In addition, she advised seeking out other local business owners who have recently done building projects to get their input on the experience.
About Dr. Travis Boston
Travis Boston, DVM, graduated from Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 2004. He worked as an equine veterinarian in Colorado and Maryland before becoming a partner at Willow Creek Equine in Reading, Pennsylvania. He is the co-chair of the AAEP Commission for Equine Veterinary Sustainability’s Compensation Subcommittee.
About Dr. Lisa Kivett
Lisa Kivett, DVM, MS, DACVIM, attended North Carolina State University, graduating in 2007. Kivett completed a rotating internship in equine medicine and surgery at Louisiana State University, followed by a three-year residency in equine internal medicine at Auburn University, after which she obtained board certification from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 2013. Kivett is an adjunct professor at NC State and teaches veterinary students in their final year of training. She owns Foundation Equine in Vass, North Carolina. Kivett is an active member of the AAEP and AVMA.
About Dr. Anna Hood
Anna Hood, DVM, CVMMP, is a graduate of Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. She also completed her B.S. in Animal Science at Purdue. A Cincinnati native, Hood returned to her hometown after veterinary school and owns Miamitown Equine Veterinary Services, a three-doctor practice. She is a member of the AAEP Commission’s Culture Subcommittee.
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