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SANTA CRUZ — Just four years after opening the doors of an ambitious one-stop animal care hospital, rehabilitation center and spa, high mortgage payments have caused the owners of Animal Hospital of Soquel to post a for sale sign on the front property.
The owners hope to sell the 7,563-square foot, state-of-the-art facility to someone who will lease it back at an acceptable price.
The building at 2651 Soquel Ave. on the north end of Seventh Avenue has a price tag of $2.6 million, or $343.78 per square foot.
“We’re not selling the practice; we’re putting feelers out,” said Carol Robins, who co-owns the property with veterinarian Janet M. Brennan. “We plan to stay in business and we are making every effort to stay where we are. We’ve tightened the belt on a lot of things and are hoping to put more emphasis on some of the areas that need it.”
Business for the 39-year-old practice is actually improving, said Robins. The problem is the mortgage, which swelled due to unexpected land issues involved in construction.
“It was one nightmare after another which raised the mortgage and eventually raised the cost of the building,” she said.
The proposed sale is just the latest public shift in the local animal care landscape, following closely the recent closure of Round Up Pet Center, a retail establishment in Scotts Valley and the sudden closure in February of Adobe Animal Hospital in Santa Cruz after 30 years in business.
“I’m hearing that a lot of veterinarians are slow,” said Lisa Carter, executive director of the Santa Cruz SPCA. “It’s not just this one hospital and Adobe. In general, there’s been a downturn in people coming with animals to see vets for regular exams.”
Fewer people, Carter said, are getting full exams for their animals, opting instead for drop-in vaccine clinics that provide less traditional preventative care.
“The economy is poor and people are barely able to take care of themselves. Sadly, pets are suffering because of it,” she said.
Veterinarians who have concentrated on low income or budget-minded clientele have been suffering, said veterinarian Dave Shuman, owner of Santa Cruz Westside Animal Hospital.
“I know three or four that are very close to closing their doors,” he said.
The closure of Adobe may help some clinics that are struggling as patients find new veterinarians.
“A lot of the Adobe clients will diffuse and they will help other practices that are struggling,” Shuman said. “I’m hopeful some good will come of it.”
Brennan, who will be retiring from her position as director of the hospital, works with veterinarians Victoria Bannerman and Marc Gherardi. The one-stop Animal Hospital of Soquel offers more than medical care, however.
The facility is home to an emergency clinic, a groomer, an overnight area and pharmacy, as well as acupuncture, physical therapy and behavioral training practice. According to the hospital website, the new facility was four years from conception to the time it opened to patients in May 2006. At the time, the economy was strong.
The building has an atrium and a large waiting area with skylights. There are four exam rooms, two for smaller animals such as hamsters and rabbits and two for larger animals. A video otoscope allows people to visualize the ear canals of their pets with the doctors. There is a lab, dental and surgery suites, a behavior consultation room with a remote camera, an acupuncture suite, a conference room, as well as an overnight room, kitchen, break room, outside patio and a play area for children. The website notes blended architecture and landscaping with a water feature.
“We’re still saying positive,” Robins said. “It would be a shame to lose the whole hospital. For Santa Cruz County, it’s almost like an icon.”
Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel (HERE)