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WSU veterinarians pay house calls to local farmers, ranchers

Dr. Alyssa Marre (right) instructs a WSU veterinary student during a recent field visit.
Courtesy of Alyssa Marre
Dr. Alyssa Marre (right) instructs a WSU veterinary student during a recent field visit.

Washington State University’s veterinary school has brought back the tradition of vets making house calls to rural animal owners.

Dr. Alyssa Marre is the lead vet for the program, which caters to large animals who are too sick or unwieldy to be transported to the university’s facilities in Pullman.

Dr. Alyssa Marre poses with a recent patient during a field call.
Courtesy of Alyssa Marre
Dr. Alyssa Marre poses with a patient during a recent field call.

“This has always been kind of my dream job. I always wanted to do, specifically, large animal and I didn’t want to stay in a clinic setting. I wanted to go out. I wanted to see farms, interact with clients, kind of on their turf," she said.

Marre and two colleagues have been making house calls since last fall. When they go, they usually have a student in tow.

“Out in the field, I really try to make it an opportunity where they can do as much as they’re comfortable with. Of course I’m there, I’m watching, I’m giving tips and things like that, but it’s really their time to shine," she said.

The service has operated without much public notice. Word has gotten around, but it’s only now that the university has begun advertising it to the general public.

Marre has some rules. She won’t travel more than 60 miles one way and she charges a flat fee for visits up to 35 miles and per mile beyond that.

“I feel like it’s not fair to charge clients so much, but it is a huge time suck for veterinarians and it’s hard to have all the supplies you could possibly need for every situation," she said.

Despite the cost, Marre says animal owners have been grateful.

“I know there’s been a little bit of hesitation in terms of costs of services and things like that," she said.

"I’ve been really grateful to our community. They’re very cognizant of letting me know that, ‘Hey, I don’t really have the best facilities. If you’d be willing to come out and try and help us with these animals, we’d greatly appreciate it. But, obviously, we don’t want to endanger anyone, so if it doesn’t work out, no hard feelings.”

If the service takes off, Marre hopes WSU will be able to expand the service to include smaller animals. That may be a great help to people in the surrounding rural counties where there aren’t enough vets in private practice.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.