Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Mueller Pet Medical wins international attention

Just two years after its grand opening, south Sacramento’s Mueller Pet Medical Center is receiving international acclaim in the pages of Veterinary Economics magazine for cutting-edge design that supports exceptional veterinary care.

Mueller has won the magazine’s 2014 Hospital of the Year Award in a competition that garners entries from across the United States and Canada. The owners, Dr. Ken Schenck and his wife, Charla Schenck, invested about $6.8 million and years of research to build the animal hospital. Sacramento architect Kirby Loo of Studioloo Architecture helped them pull it all together – separate waiting spaces, exam rooms and wards for cats and dogs; luxury dog suites equipped with Web-enabled cameras so owners can monitor their pets online; and a pet inn with multiple indoor and outdoor playrooms.

“(The judges) felt we had really done a great job of developing the proper flow,” Ken Schenck said. “A lot of this award is kind of for the functionality of the building, how it works, how it flows, how it serves the customer.”

Longtime readers of this column will recall that the Schencks had to wait years to get the hospital built because so many banks tightened their purse strings after the mortgage crisis. Multiple lenders had competed for the project before 2008, but after the housing meltdown, they backed away. The Schencks made good use of this extra time.

“We spent quite a few years looking at probably close to 50 other animal hospitals all over the country,” Ken Schenck said. “We went as far away as New Jersey. We went to Louisiana and, of course, Southern California, Oregon, Washington and looked at a number of practices that actually had received the same award that we just received.”

The Schencks appeared to be at the leading edge of a wave of animal hospital expansions in the Sacramento region. Read on to see the latest news on the veterinary scene.

Taking a big leap

In 2004, Dr. Bikram Basra started up his veterinary practice in Rocklin in just 1,600 square feet. He worked almost around the clock, taking late-night emergency calls to build his clientele.

His wife, Dr. Sukhdeep Kaur, hadn’t passed her veterinary board exams at that time, Basra said, so she was the receptionist, kennel worker, technician and pretty much everything else.

“We’d come in the morning at 6 o’clock or 7 o’clock, check on all the dogs we had and clean the cages. At 8 o’clock, we’d start seeing appointments. My wife would go home to study for her boards, and I would call her and say, ‘Hey, it just got busy. C’mon back.’ She would walk back. We lived really close in an apartment building nearby.”

The two acquired another practice in 2010 and gave the consolidated business a new name, Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital. They have operated out of a 3,000-square-foot space at a shopping center on Sunset Boulevard at Stanford Ranch Road since then. Their staff had grown to 30-plus people, so it was a tight squeeze. They might have been there for several years more, however, if a friend of Basra’s hadn’t suggested that he and Kaur take a look at a foreclosed building across the street.

They did, and they couldn’t believe the price. They discovered they would be able to acquire the 11,000-square-foot property, remodel it, add new technology and amenities, and yet their overhead would be about the same as what it was at their current space. Rocklin Ranch Veterinary opened Tuesday at its new space at 2201 Plaza Drive, which includes 11 exam rooms, 10 luxury dog suites painted with custom murals and three surgery spaces. Since the Rocklin Ranch practice also runs the city of Rocklin’s shelter, there will be pets available for adoption in the lobby.

Expand or lose ground

The parking headaches at Sacramento Animal Hospital, 5701 H St., had grown so big that Dr. Diana Cortez and her two partners began to be concerned that pet owners would seek out other vets because of it.

“We’ve always had more people wanting to come in than we can accommodate,” Cortez told me. “Our facility is only about 3,400 square feet, and we only have three exam rooms with seven doctors and only five parking spots. So we reached a point where our major complaints were: ‘I can’t get in, and I can’t park.’ So we were hitting that wall where if we didn’t grow or find a way to grow, things would be quickly turning around for us.”

That’s why Cortez and her partners, Dr. Karen Mulvihill and Dr. Erin True, bought the meatpacking place next door, demolished it and are building a new animal hospital on that site. Their staff of about 20 expects to move into the new 5,800-square-foot building at the end of March. Then their current hospital space will be leveled to make room for 23 much-needed parking spots. During the construction, they’re offering complimentary valet parking.

The new animal hospital will have double the number of exam rooms, office space on the second floor, a phone triage area and improved workflow.