County's first new animal hospital in 30 years to open this summer

When La Crosse County and the nation-at-large face a veterinarian shortage and, accordingly, long wait times for appointments, local veterinarian Dr. Nicole Azene and her husband Dr. Ezana Azene announced today they are building a new clinic in Onalaska.

Onalaska Animal Hospital is now under construction on 12th Avenue South in Onalaska. The 5,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open this summer and will offer a full range of veterinary services, including preventive, routine, diagnostic, dental and surgical care.

It's a move that can't come soon enough for Coulee Region Humane Society and local pet owners.

The estimated number of local households with dogs and cats has grown by nearly 29% in the last 30 years, but the number of veterinary clinics has remained the same. Additionally, a study last year by national veterinary practice Banfield Pet Hospital predicted a critical shortage of veterinarians could cause 75 million pets in the U.S. to lose veterinary care by 2030.

"We're fortunate to have several excellent veterinary clinics in this area, but the combination of these factors confirms we need for more options here. Local pets are often waiting weeks for care," said Heather Drievold, executive director of Coulee Region Humane Society.

The veterinarian shortage draws on the humane society's already stretched resources, added Drievold. "For care we can't cover ourselves and our local clinics can't get to due to their capacity, we've been taking animals to Minnesota, creating more stress on the animals and requiring more drive time for volunteers and staff. Plus, longer wait times mean animals are spending additional weeks in our care."

The Azenes' research indicates that the community can support another clinic without cutting into other veterinarians' operations.

"Our intent is to help ease the shortage of services in the community and ensure timely care for local pets," said Nicole Azene. "I've long admired the drive, innovation and pure hard work of local veterinarians to build an excellent network of care available today. We'll emulate the standards they've set and look forward to collaborating with them in the future."

Nicole Azene has been practicing veterinary medicine for 16 years. She earned her doctorate of veterinary medicine from the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri – Columbia. Since that time, she has worked in small private practices and cared for animals at a nonprofit rescue organization. She also worked as a staff veterinarian at the National Institutes of Health, providing veterinary oversight and preventive medical care, managing chronic diseases and operating her division's intensive care unit. She has also served as attending veterinarian at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.