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The High-Cost, High-Risk World of Modern Pet Care

A wave of corporatization is hitting the veterinary industry, but does a one-size-fits-all approach work?

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Veterinarian John Robb steers his Chrysler out of the parking lot, gliding past the Dunkin’ Donuts and the boarded-up furniture store, and leaves behind another Saturday shift at Catzablanca, the clinic where he’s been reduced to working since losing his own hospital. There’s a big cardboard box stuffed with court papers in the back seat, the air conditioning is up against Connecticut’s July heat, and an audiobook of the Bible is playing loud. “When I get into the car,” Robb tells me, “I’m like, ‘Lord I need to hear from you.’ ”

It wasn’t a day harder than most, but he’d had to put a little girl’s cat to sleep while she sobbed in the reception area. Later, exam rooms got backed up while Robb investigated why another feline was vomiting. A cell phone picture of a flowerpot knocked over in the owner’s backyard suggested the cause: poisonous hydrangea blossoms. By the time Robb locked up for the night, the cat was resting in a cage, hooked up to an IV and meowing.