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New woman-owned animal hospital coming to Kirkland: Urgent care facility fills critical gap for pet owners

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Dr. Stephanie Stoegbauer and Lady — Courtesy photo
Dr. Stephanie Stoegbauer and Lady — Courtesy photo

Responding to the rise in pet ownership, a Washington veterinarian has plans to improve the quality of animal care.

Dr. Stephanie Stoegbauer and her staff are putting the finishing touches on the new L & L Animal Urgent Care in Kirkland, which is designed to fill a needs gap in an industry overwhelmed by the changes that the COVID-19 pandemic wrought.

"We literally had such a humongous increase in the pet population between 2020 and 2021 that we didn't have the capacity to handle it," said Stoegbauer. "We just didn't have enough staff or veterinarians to handle the load."

A 2021-22 survey by the American Pet Products Association showed that 70% of US households (90.5 million) owned a pet, a dramatic increase from 56% when the survey was first conducted in 1988. Observers of this trend cite COVID for the increase, as Americans sought out furry friends to cope with the pandemic's isolation.

"Obviously, everyone was stuck in their house, and a big house can seem very empty if there [aren't] things to fill it," said Sydney Roy, a veterinarian assistant at L & L. "And what better thing to fill it with than a fluffy friend that is there all the time with you?"

However, the consequence of more animals in the house was an increased need for pet care.

"I'm so happy a lot of the adoption facilities were running out of adoptable pets, which is wonderful, but it's all of that pet health care that came behind it that really started taking a toll on the veterinarian field," Roy said.

"Helping pets, supporting vets"
Enter L & L Animal Urgent Care, a pet care facility with a purpose: to take the pressure off emergency hospitals and general practices. It's a burgeoning business designed to treat minor infections and injuries in dogs and cats that are not life threatening.

"Sick but stable patients" was how Stoegbauer described the business model, adding that no preventive care, such as vaccinations, will be available at the hospital.

Stoegbauer said the average vet sees 4,000 patients a year. That number rose by 2,000 during the pandemic, she said, leaving no open appointment slots.

"I have watched pet owners become absolutely distraught when they couldn't get in," Stoegbauer said.

L & L is hoping to ease that pain and has a tagline to go with it: "Helping pets, supporting vets," Stoegbauer termed it. "We are there as a backup."

Stoegbauer describes her role as a relief veterinarian. "Sort of like a substitute teacher," she said.

A 2007 graduate of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Stoegbauer has worked as a relief veterinarian for the past eight years in more than 30 hospitals in the greater Seattle area. She said the embrace of pet ownership during the pandemic reaffirmed her career choice.

"It's so fantastic to see. It brought a level of joy to them [new pet owners] that they wouldn't have had and reinforces how important the love of having an animal in your home is."

Loki — Courtesy photo  

L & L Animal Urgent Care is named after Stoegbauer's two rescue dogs — Lady, a greyhound and Loki, a Samoyed. The hospital is a total renovation of a 2,400-square-foot former 7-Eleven store in the Houghton neighborhood of Kirkland. When complete, it will house state-of-the-art technology for timely lab results and have anesthesia capabilities.

L & L will serve all communities, said Roy, its operations manager, a Bisexual woman.

Photo by Los Muertos Crew / Pexels  

"We are definitely an LGBTQ-friendly business. We are welcoming with open arms. It doesn't matter what you look like or what you call yourself. As long as you are kind and respectful, then we will be kind and respectful back."

Stoegbauer, a married straight woman and mother of three boys, agreed.

"Some of my best clients have been Gay men that I absolutely adore, and they take the best care of their pets, because they are like their babies," she said.

Stoegbauer said the Houghton area has plentiful housing and housing developments, and a Google campus is just a block from the hospital. L & L will employ six to seven people and partner with local emergency rooms for referrals, she said.

The hospital is scheduled to open March 27. Its hours of operation will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

L & L Animal Urgent Care is at 944 6th St. S., Kirkland, Washington 98033. For more information, go to https://www.landlanimalurgentcare.com/.