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Vets need more crawl space

Allyn Harvey

One of Aspen’s oldest and most familiar businesses has learned that finding a new home is a dog of a task.

The Aspen Animal Hospital, located in the same spot at the Airport Business Center for at least 30 years, announced last week that it’s looking for a new location before the end of March. The popular veterinary clinic needs more space, a building that’s in better shape and, ideally, a location with some kind of outdoor access.

“Everyone is on top of each other here, except the animals, who still have the same comfortable accommodations they’ve always had,” said Lari Goode, the animal hospital’s office manager.

The space issue has become so bad, in fact, that the hospital recently shut down its boarding kennel, partly to make room for storage. Dogs are still allowed to stay overnight, but only if they are patients. Cats, rabbits and snakes can still find boarding at the hospital, however.

The rush for a new place is on because the veterinarian who owns the hospital, Dr. Scott Dolginow, has agreed to give his landlord six months’ notice before moving out. The lease expires Sept. 30. The building is owned by Dr. Craton Burkholder, who is both a vet and the former owner of the Aspen Animal Hospital.

The need for more space is apparent everywhere you look. One of the three examination rooms is being used for storage, as are the kennels. And there isn’t enough office space for a new vet, even though the hospital could use one, especially during the busy summer season.

The space crunch is at its worst during the summer, when three vets are on duty each day. With only two examination rooms, they often run into problems finding a place to examine dogs and cats and everything else that hops, crawls or slithers through the doors.

“We also have an endoscope that needs a place to be used and stored,” said Dr. James Ziegler. An endoscope is a large piece of equipment that allows doctors to examine the internal organs of dogs and cats.

Ziegler is one of three vets working with Dolginow at the Aspen Animal Hospital; the other two are Dr. Brian Marshall and Dr. Kristen Unverferth.

Two weeks ago, the hospital took out advertisements in local newspapers asking for leads about possible locations for rent or sale. Goode said there were a few responses, but the money involved was too high. “Vets don’t make a lot of money,” she said. “We can’t really pay a lot more than we do now.”

Goode said the hospital would be willing to stay put if the right arrangements – rent, lease, repairs – can be worked out with Burkholder. “He’s offered to extend the lease, but the building is in pretty bad repair,” she said.

Both Goode and Ziegler pointed out that the floors are buckling in a few spots, the heating and lighting are less reliable than they used to be, and the walls are in need of a fresh coat of paint. On top of that, the interior must be reconfigured to meet the needs of the hospital, which has grown considerably since Burkholder was the owner.

Dolginow said he has discussed purchasing the building from Burkholder, but they haven’t been able to agree on a price. If a new location can’t be found by the end of the month, Dolginow said the hospital will likely stay put. If that’s the case, he hopes acceptable terms can be worked out with Burkholder.

“It boils down to my reluctance to put money into a building that someone else owns,” Dolginow said.

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