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Davis, California

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Bringing holiday cheer to the homeless and their pets

‘Twas the weeks before Christmas and all through Sacramento, there was a need for help – a big or small memento. The donation baskets were made by the veterinary clinic with finesse, in hopes to help the pets of Sacramento’s homeless.

A group of volunteers from the Mercer Veterinary Clinic and the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) will be preparing and handing out 130 gift baskets for pets of the homeless this holiday season.

Eileen Samitz, is the coordinator of the Mercer Veterinary Clinic holiday pet baskets program for VMTH, which began in 1995.

“The animals treasure their owners as much as if their owner were a millionaire,” Samitz said. “They deserve to have a Christmas every bit as much as any other animal.”

The project stemmed from the VMTH’s newsletter staff that wanted to help with a holiday charity program. The staff chose to work with the Mercer Veterinary Clinic because it was affiliated with UC Davis.

“These animals are more than pets,” Samitz said. “They are literally their [owner’s] warmth, their company and their family.”

The baskets are filled with everything the pet would need to have a jolly holiday. Samitz works with both pet food companies as well as toy companies to work out a deal for the cheapest prices and donations. Dog toys that will be long-lasting are expensive, she said.

This year’s baskets will be distributed on Saturday, Dec. 12 at the Mercer Veterinary Clinic, located at 1321 North C St. in Sacramento.

The clinic has been treating pets of homeless individuals since 1992. Ran by sophomore veterinary students and supervised by volunteer veterinarians, the clinic is open on the second Saturday of every month. They provide basic veterinary care, access to emergency care and pet food, all free of charge.

“The Mercer Veterinary Clinic’s main goal is to provide preventative veterinary medical care and spray/neuter services for the pets of the homeless,” said Morgan Weintraub, a sophomore veterinary student and Mercer Veterinary Clinic officer.

This clinic also provides vet students with valuable real-world experiences, said Kevin Jepsen-Grant, a sophomore veterinary student.

“[Mercer Clinic] not only gives me experience working with people and practicing medicine, but also allows me to help animals and the people who care for them,” Jepsen-Grant said in an e-mail interview. “Just because we don’t work out of a proper hospital or clinic doesn’t mean we can’t do some good work.”

At their last clinic in November, the Mercer Veterinary Clinic saw 116 animals. Each year, the number of animal visits increases. This has caused difficulty for the non-profit organization to offer the best possible care with limited resources, Weintraub said in an e-mail interview.

Both the Mercer Clinic and the gift basket program are dependent entirely on donations. The best way someone can help is to donate funds, Samitz said.

Those interested in financial or gift basket donations can contact Eileen Samitz at emsamitz@ucdavis.edu. Or visit their web site at vetmed.ucdavis.edu/clubs/mercer.

NICK MARKWITH can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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