“Rascal” Mobile Hospital Offers Low-Cost Spay, Neuter for Ohio’s Cats and Dogs

A tortoiseshell cat recovers after surgery aboard the Rascal Unit van.
A tortoiseshell cat recovers after surgery aboard the Rascal Unit van.

Dr. Michelle Gonzalez has an office in Dublin but she sees patients all over the state. In March, Gonzalez began operating RASCAL, a surgical animal hospital on wheels. Since the first clinic last April, Gonzalez has sterilized about 3,500 cats and dogs. She goes to places where residents don’t make much money or where there’s a shortage of veterinary care.

Connie Taylor holds her nervous 8-month-old beagle mix Princess in her lap. Taylor sits with other animal owners in a building at the Adams County Fairgrounds in West Union. Princess has an appointment to be spayed on board the RASCAL van that’s parked just outside.

“The reason I have these dogs, I live in the country and everyone drops them off to me,” Taylor says. “I had 30 cats at one time. People dropped them off pregnant cats. I let them birth their babies, got them neutered and spayed, and I can’t afford to anymore so I’m bringing them up here because I care for them.”

RASCAL stands for Roaming Animal Sterilization Clinic At Low-Cost. Founder Michelle Gonzalez, an Ohio State University vet school graduate, took delivery of the new mobile hospital in March and held her first Rascal clinic a few weeks later. Before that, during six years of private practice, she, like other vets, did work for animal shelters and humane societies. Gonzalez says the animals’ plight helped encourage the creation of RASCAL.

“I see the number of animals that are put down just because there is no home or because some even simple illnesses they just cannot afford to spend a lot of money on,” Gonzalez says. “So they end up having to euthanize that animal.”

Throughout the day animals are chauffeured into the RASCAL van for surgery. About the size of a large motor home, it can be noisy at times with cages for up to 30 animals. It’s equipped with an autoclave, refrigerator, and scale. And in the rear, two tables for surgery.

“This kitty is going to get spayed,” Gonzalez says. “And I believe this is a stray cat. So the lady is having it spayed and vaccinated for rabies and then will let her back loose in her area, I think she’s from a barn, so she’ll just let her back in the barn. So at least she’ll keep this cat from continuing to overpopulate her area.”

Gonzalez does dozens of procedures during the day. She completes one at the first table, then turns to the other, where technicians have prepped the next patient.

“So literally as soon as I’m done with one surgery I just turn around and start on the other surgery. They take that one down, somebody is recovering that patient while the next one is being knocked out.”

Both injectable and gas anesthesia is used and the patient is sent home with pain medication. As Dr. Gonzalez continues surgery, technician Meagan Pandey cleans the teeth of an 11-year-old Chihuahua that’s just been spayed. Hours later her owner is there to pick up her pet.

“She’s my little old girl. She goes to the nursing home with me when I make my nursing home rounds. The old dog sees the old people, huh?”

The newly organized Adams County Humane Society arranged for the clinic, scheduled the patients and it collects the surgical fees which it turns over to RASCAL.

It’s $84, $42 per cat. And the tags are in here and the post operative information.

That’s less than a private practice would charge. Rascal also helps provide services in counties with limited or no veterinary care.

“Some of the other places we go to, like Vinton County, they don’t have a veterinarian at all,” Gonzalez says. “So finding out about all the places that don’t have veterinary care is the driving force behind doing this.”Doctor Michelle Gonzalez has sterilized 3,500 dogs and cats aboard the RASCAL van since April 1st.

“It’s okay punkin’ I’m right here. My little Maggie. Are you warm? Hmm? Hers a good girl. Her done a good job.