It was during a routine phone call to her father in the early ‘70s that sparked a transformation in Ann Huntington. He mentioned taking the family pet to a female veterinarian. From that time on, Ann decided that she too would become a veterinarian, although female vets were rare then.
She left her marketing position at a trucking company and returned to college to fulfill undergraduate science requirements. She was accepted into Cornell University’s four-year veterinary school and officially became Dr. Ann Huntington in 1977.
Today her 40-year-old Suffield Veterinary Hospital on East Street employs four other doctors catering to cats, dogs, ferrets, guinea pigs, chinchillas, birds and other pets. She doesn’t treat farm animals, reptiles or amphibians.
The hospital is on the nine-acre site of the former Brockett Animal Hospital, started in the ‘50s. Dr. Huntington purchased the practice with her late husband Nick Mickelson in 1983. She built an addition in 2002, tripling the size of the original building.
Dr. Huntington listed three major changes to the veterinary business since she started: the rise of specialists, the increase in treatment costs and the arrival of emergency clinics.
Although her practice employs generalists, she said today there are board-certified animal cardiologists, ophthalmologists, dentists and other specialists similar to those we humans frequent. Her team regularly refers patients to such experts who offer superior service, but naturally cost more.
“For example, a torn ACL is the most common orthopedic problem we see in dogs,” she said. “About 15 years ago, an extremely talented and reliable traveling surgeon would visit our hospital and repair Anterior Cruciate Ligaments (ACL) for $600 or $700. Now, specialists charge no less than $4,000.”
If you can’t afford such bills, Dr. Huntington suggests you consider pet insurance for catastrophic problems, not for routine care. It pains her to see clients who “very frequently” have to choose euthanasia over corrective treatment, due to high costs.
On a happier, albeit self-serving note, she welcomes the arrival of emergency animal hospitals, such as the one in Windsor, so she and her team needn’t be on call 24 hours.
Dr. Huntington and her associate, Dr. Emilie Laston, operate a successful canine sperm bank. They collect and freeze semen regularly. “Dogs who win in the show ring and field trials, or those who are healthy, with good hips and clean eyes, can be preserved,” she said. “So, 15 years from now their semen can be used for breeding. Today dog litters bred from semen we’ve provided live in Australia and all over Europe and the U.S.”
Over the years Dr. Huntington has served on Suffield’s Board of Finance and as the town’s water commissioner. She’s been a longtime Suffield Observer advertiser and was involved in youth soccer when her two sons were younger.
She loves Suffield and considers the animal care her team provides and the employment she extends to over 30 people as the best job in the world.