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Personal touch for furry patients

A new 24-7 animal hospital is getting ready to open a new emergency facility and special care at 2100 Washington Ave.

PASE, which is short for Philadelphia Animal Specialty & Emergency, will open a new facility in the fall, and will house full-service emergency and specialty care for pets. The privately owned company actually began operations on June 14, 2021, but has been borrowing space at the Washington Avenue Animal Hospital, about a block and a half away, at 1920 Washington Ave.

“At that point we were just sort of working out of a hallway out of the general practice,” said Erik Zager, Managing Partner, Co-Department Head of Emergency and Critical Care at PASE. “And over the past year, we have grown and evolved. And we now have 10 different specialists that are partners in ownership that are running the hospital. We’ve been rapidly expanding ever since.”

It’s growing so rapidly that the practice will open an even larger facility sometime in the next two years. In the meantime, the brand-new facility at 2100 Washington Ave., set to open late October or early November, will occupy about 11,000 square feet and will allow the medical team to begin full operations. The plan is to open a larger emergency care facility at 1924 Washington Ave. next year and transition the 2100 location into an outpatient facility.

“We’re moving down the street and then back down the street a little bit later,” Zager said. 

Zager said PASE had only seven employees when it opened last year and now has about 120. He said there was a need for animal facilities in an underserved area like South Philly that was made more prominent during the pandemic. Some overwhelmed animal hospitals wouldn’t take new patients, forcing new pet owners to drive several hours for care.

“The pandemic really stressed veterinary medicine to the max,” Zager said. “We had a lot of, not only loss of staff from the stresses and difficulties of the job leave the field, but there was also a huge increase in demand because of all the pets people got during the pandemic. It put the whole profession into crisis. The number of hospitals was just not enough to keep up with the need.”

When PASE opened last summer, it hit the ground running.

“There was no honeymoon period where we could take things slow and find our footing and set things up,” Zager said. “From day one, we were slammed with people seeking care. It’s been proven time and time again how much this is needed.”

The new PASE facility will put emergency care and several specialists all under one roof. Surgery, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology and anesthesiology are just some of the specialties that will be offered this fall. It also offers cardiology, internal medicine, critical care and diagnostic imaging as well as a blood bank donation program.

“I’m pleased to join PASE as a partner and as Head of Surgery in one of the few remaining independent veterinary emergency and specialty hospitals in the Philadelphia region,” said Dr. Donny Astor. “We have an amazing group of doctors, nurses and support staff with more exciting additions on the way. We are trained and equipped to provide a wide range of orthopedic and soft-tissue surgery for pets in need. Our team approach integrates all of the various departments in the hospital to ensure that we collaborate to provide excellent care for all of our patients. As we continue to grow and add new services, we are focused on maintaining that collaborative approach and personalized touch for our patients and clients.”

Unlike most multi-service hospitals, PASE is 100-percent owned by the veterinarians who serve there.

“For hospitals over the last decade, there has been a big shift to corporately owned hospitals,” Zager said. “Unfortunately, that has some negative effects. Some companies’ main goal is to profit at the end of the day. Having a group of specialists that is not only working together for the team, but is also the ones making the decisions that are in the best interest of the hospital and the pet community, has been really special.”

The building at 2100 Washington Ave. will occupy one-and-a-half floors and will include a mezzanine area for office spaces and additional services. The main floor will include surgical suites, an emergency room and intensive care unit as well as space for MRI and CT scanning. The hospital has hired employees from all over the city and its surrounding areas.

“We have people who walk to work and people who are commuting from all parts of Philadelphia and New Jersey,” Zager said. “It’s great to have a big diverse team. We’re also trying as much as we can to keep community-minded. One of the things we were founded on was making sure we are serving the community that we are in and not just becoming a specialty hospital that is reaching out into the suburbs for patients, but care for the people of our community.”

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