Have a pet emergency? Asheville's REACH is always there

By Mike McWilliams
August 8, 2010

 ASHEVILLE — When Wolfie needed after-hours emergency care, his owners knew just where to go.

“It was Thanksgiving, we had several people over and Wolfie just kind of ran out the door,” said Tanya Plaut, of Marshall. “Someone slammed the door behind him and took off the end of his tail.”

Plaut took Wolfie, a German shepherd, to the Regional Emergency Animal Care Hospital to have his tail stitched up. The Brevard Road hospital, also known as REACH, typically treats between 15-30 animal emergencies during a weekday shift, which starts at 5 p.m. and ends at 8 the following morning.

The hospital is open 24 hours on weekends and major holidays, giving Western North Carolina pet owners a lifeline should their furry loved ones need immediate care.

“Our group is highly skilled in what they do, but they are also very dedicated to what they do,” said Dr. Randy Wetzel, medical director and owner of REACH. “They work weekends, holidays and overnights to take care of the pet emergencies for this region. When you combine this level of compassion and skill it really makes for a wonderful team of people treating your pet.”

REACH started out under a different name by a group of local veterinarians at a facility on Long Shoals Road. It moved to its current location in 1999 and has been solely an after-hours animal hospital since about 2003.

Wetzel bought the practice in 2007. REACH has five doctors and 18 employees on staff. The hospital features noninvasive diagnostic tools, such as digital radiology and ultrasound technology.

REACH also works closely with and often gets referrals from area general practice veterinary clinics, Wetzel said.

“I think most people really appreciate that we are here and that we have the relationship that we do with their primary veterinarian to offer such a service,” Wetzel said. “It really is the support and relationship with the area veterinarians that allows this work and for us to be able to offer the level of care that we do.”

The majority of the nearly 6,000 patients treated yearly at REACH are cats and dogs, but birds and “pocket pets,” such as hamsters and guinea pigs also have been brought in.

Staff did surgery on a chicken and also recently did an ultrasound on a rattlesnake believed to be pregnant. Among some of the more unusual cases involved a Labrador that got its tongue stuck in a paper shredder and a cat that impaled itself on a pole. Both turned out fine, Wetzel said.

Like Wetzel, others at REACH, like Christy Reeves, find great reward and joy in helping animals. Reeves started at REACH 10 years ago as a veterinary assistant and is now operations manager.

“I am proud to work for REACH because we are able to help animals in times of need,” Reeves said. “It is rewarding to see families happy to have their pet back to normal so that they can enjoy life with them.”

Before the door slammed on Wolfie's tail, Plaut took Teddy, another German shepherd, to REACH for treatment. Wetzel accompanied the Plauts to an animal hospital in Greenville, S.C., which had a sonogram machine. Teddy was eventually diagnosed with blood cancer. He has since passed away, and the Plauts donated a sonogram machine to REACH in Teddy's memory.

“People are very, very attached to the their pets, and the nice thing about REACH, first of all, is they're always available when regular vets are closed and that's usually when things seem to happen — nights, holidays and weekends,” Tanya Plaut said. “They just are so great down there and so caring. It's a really wonderful group of people.”