Glendale vet anticipates animal care growth

One Glendale veterinarian is betting that the recent growth in animal medical care will mean the $1.5-million renovation and expansion of his business will be a smart move.

Rafael Villicaña, veterinarian and owner of the Gateway Animal Hospital, said he purchased the building next to his practice on the corner of Los Feliz Road and Gardena Avenue 15 years ago and leased it to other businesses. Now, he's expanded his veterinary office into that location.

"The market is changing, and you need a good facility to attract good new veterinarians," he said. "We always have had good equipment and good doctors, but people didn't perceive that."

Construction was completed in April, and the animal hospital will hold a grand-reopening on June 29.

The business is located in an area of Glendale that is slated for an explosion of housing development, with three projects to bring hundreds of apartments as well as retail to the southern part of the city.

William Narez, finance director for the animal hospital, said the renovation, which expanded the animal hospital from 3,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet, will help the business fit in aesthetically with the developing area.

"We really are at the gateway to Glendale," he said. "There's a lot of growth around here."

Other veterinary practices in the area are also growing, according to Steven Katz, hospital administrator at Animal Specialty Group, a specialized surgical and emergency practice on Colorado Boulevard.

"[Business] has increased across the board generally from maybe a year ago," he said. "As population grows, and more families get pets, you have a greater need."

Katz said that Animal Specialty Group relies on referrals from local veterinary practices, so when its business is up, it's a sign that business is increasing overall — partly due to new technology that leads to longer lives for pets.

"Because of the quality of medicine, you're seeing more longevity in the pets themselves. Therefore, there's more care that's required overall," he said.

Narez said the hospital has also found a niche by catering to Spanish-speaking customers, and that focus has helped spur growth, with the hospital serving more than 120 customers a day on average.

"It's coming from everywhere, and especially from the Latino community," he said. "A lot of clientele are Spanish speaking. They come in and most of our employees are Latinos… They can understand us, we can understand them."

Narez said that, with the new facility, the hospital will aim to attract an additional 30 to 60 customers daily.

The expansion took five years, Villicaña said, much longer than he anticipated due to struggles with city permitting and approvals.

"We had a lot of obstacles," he said.

Although Villicaña hopes the new housing developments in the area will drive new customers to his business, that wasn't why he did the remodel.

"My first objective is to maintain by client base," he said.


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