More than three decades ago, local veterinarian Dr. Bud Doney had a dream: he wanted to create a clinic that would help Seattle’s homeless population.
In 1985, Dr. Doney created his dream clinic, where he provided limited services. Though he died shortly afterward, another veterinarian named Dr. Stan Coe stepped in to help Dr. Doney’s wife, Nancy, continue this important mission.
During the early days of the Doney clinic, there were only two or three volunteers. “We had one veterinarian, one metal table, and a line of people in need,” explained volunteer Jennifer Alley. “Trying to get the word out, what we were doing, there was nothing else like it in the city, or even the country. Explaining what we wanted to do took some work. We had to explain that it was free and that we weren’t trying to take their animals. Once people understood, word of mouth took over, and the need soon outpaced our resources.”
The Doney Memorial Clinic provides pet food and supplies to approximately 100 pets. They also hold clinics on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. “The veterinarians provide services to 40-75 pets,” Jennifer said. “Over the 30-plus years we’ve been seeing pets, we have helped over 50,000 animals. Some we see only once and some folks come every Clinic. As a volunteer, you get attached. We’ve seen dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, even a goat. We had a cat who was diabetic. Many folks, even those with means, can’t or won’t provide the extensive care a diabetic cat needs. This owner learned how to give insulin, which we provided, and took terrific care of her cat. She brought it in every Clinic for more than a year so our veterinarians could run labs and check on her. It was a terrific quality of life for the cat and her owner. The cat has since passed away, but the owner still stops in to see us.”
Jennifer has been awed by how humble and grateful the Doney Clinic clients are. “People want to be self-sufficient,” she said. “Often they won’t accept help for themselves, but when it comes to seeing their companion suffer, they won’t stand for it. They’ll wait in line for hours, in the heat, rain, cold, just to make sure their pet receives care. It’s humbling to be a part of that.”
The volunteers of the Doney Clinic want to make sure that their clients’ pets receive care. “Even if you aren’t sure what paperwork you need, please come,” she said. “We’ll walk you through the process. We believe in spaying and neutering your pet. We’ll discuss it and provide a certificate to get the surgery done at the Seattle Animal Shelter’s Spay and Neuter Clinic. This is a requirement, but we’ll explain it to you and walk you through this process, as well. We’re all volunteers, so please be patient when you come. We’ll do our best.”
The community response to the clinic has been overwhelmingly positive. “Most people love animals and want to know they’re being fed and cared for,” Jennifer said. “There are always some who ask why a homeless person would choose to have a pet, when they can’t even care for themselves. We explain the psychological needs that are met by unconditional love and the advantages to being needed and most people come to see the benefit of services like ours.”
The Doney Memorial Clinic ensures that pets who would often end up in shelters or euthanized instead stay with their families and live out their lives. “We ensure that animals living with folks on our streets are vaccinated and healthy,” Jennifer said.
“We ensure people who need help can focus on themselves, while we help give them peace of mind about their animal companions. We are always in need of funds, supplies, and volunteers. Money goes a long way so we can purchase what we most need at any given time. In addition, we have a fund for animals who need more extensive veterinarian care than we can provide at the Clinic, and money helps replenish it so we can continue that work. We are always in need of dog and cat food (dry or canned). We go through hundreds of pounds of each at each Clinic. Volunteers, both those who want to help at the Clinic, but also folks to help pick up donations and transport them to the Clinic, attend or host fundraising events, do outreach, etc. Those are our needs.”
The Doney volunteers are grateful to the Union Gospel Mission for allowing them to use their space. “We’re also so appreciate of our partner veterinarian clinics and local business that serve as drop off locations and partners.”