Neighborhood Pets set to double in size after COVID-19 unleashes need for affordable pet care

Slavic Village’s pet-friendliest spot is about to double in size—and not a moment too soon. 

“During the pandemic, the amount of calls we got for help doubled,” shares Becca Britton, executive director for Neighborhood Pets. “We saw a lot of people losing their jobs and panicking because they didn’t want to give up their animals.”

That’s where Neighborhood Pets comes in, providing low-cost wellness services, free spay and neuter procedures, a pet food bank, and more to those in need. The big-hearted nonprofit has operated out of its 1,000-square-foot home in Slavic Village since 2016, but this summer, its Wellness Clinic & Resource Center will take over an adjacent vacant storefront to effectively double in size.

“Our resource center has been operating at full capacity for quite some time, so we needed to get more space in order to be able to service more clients,” explains Britton, adding that the center has serviced 4,000 households in the last five years.

The expansion is being sponsored in part by Petsmart Charities and Embrace Pet Insurance, and Neighborhood Pets will launch a fundraising campaign in late June. When the new space opens in September, Neighborhood Pets will be able to increase its walk-in hours and make more wellness appointments available. The expanded clinic will also be equipped to provide more services—such as ear cytology, bloodwork, fecal exams, and heartworm tests (especially important as Cleveland ranked fourth in the nation for positive tests as of 2019).

“Right now, we don’t do anything with microscopes or bloodwork, so the expansion will enable more extensive care that we can’t do with our current setup,” says Britton.

Local artists are also lending their talents to make the new space an inviting place. Sean Kelly recently created a mural for the renovated lobby area, and a new awning and sign have also been completed. Kelly will work with Scott Pickering on a new storefront design for the exterior,  with Brittany Hudak providing custom wall coverings. “Northeast Ohio artists have been such a big part of our work,” says Britton.

Looking ahead, Britton hopes that the expansion will also afford more Clevelanders the opportunity to take advantage of what Neighborhood Pets has to offer.

“I want to roll this out so we can eventually open [our offerings to people] beyond only Cleveland residents and those living at the poverty level,” says Britton. “The goal is to offer services on a sliding scale that will help subsidize our programming and bring in additional revenue.”

But Britton says Neighborhood Pets will always stay true to its core mission of supporting those who live in poverty and have pets—especially since Cleveland is now the poorest big city in the nation.

“I don’t think everyone totally understood how many people were struggling even before the pandemic,” says Britton. “Something as simple as a free collar and leash or shot for their pet can be a huge help. With the city’s poverty levels being higher than any other major city in the U.S.—coupled with the increased poverty rates due to the pandemic—the need for Neighborhood Pets services is greater than ever before.”

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. Along with her work at FreshWater, she is the editor-of-chief of Edible Cleveland and a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes for Creative Groove, Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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