LOCKLAND, Ohio — Freckles the Beagle lay quietly on the shiny examination table, her right eye swollen to scary proportions.
Veterinarian Stacey Benton of the clinic Pets in Need of Greater Cincinnati suspected glaucoma and possibly an eye tumor.
Yet, the eight-year-old, charmer-of-a dog allowed the eye exam to proceed without struggle, perhaps calmed by the reassuring coos and gentle petting of Dr. Benton and her two veterinary technology students.
At one point during the examination Freckles turned her head to lick one of the students.
“This is an awesome place,” said Barbara Clark of Covington, Kentucky, who is unemployed and could not afford to take her dog to a private vet.
Together since Freckles was six weeks old, Ms. Clark expressed gratitude that Pets In Need was there for her.
Founded in 2012, Pets in Need has served thousands of pets from homes where household income is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Proof of income is required.
The non-profit clinic represents the only permanent resource for very low-cost veterinary care anywhere in the Greater Cincinnati area, explained Executive Director Ann Ramsey Hill. Pet owners come from a 150-mile radius encompassing 15 counties.
“People who are struggling still need the love of a pet,” explained Ms. Hill, a non-practicing CPA and former homebuilder who devotes 30-40 hours a week without pay to the non-profit clinic.
The owner of 10 cats and two dogs, Ms. Hill said “naysayers” complain, “if you can’t afford a pet, you shouldn’t have a pet. We don’t believe that.
“Sometimes life interferes with even the best of intentions,” according to the clinic’s mission statement. “Jobs or homes are lost. Families split up. Accidents and serious illnesses happen. Suddenly, money for a visit to the vet—or even for pet food-just isn’t there any more. Our mission is to help truly needy people and their pets.
We make it possible for those who need it most to have the joy of a pet in their lives.”
Ms. Hill said that helping owners properly take care of their pets also “raises regard for animals.”
Ironically, the building where Pets In Need permanently located in 2013 to serve the poor once operated as a bank, flush with money.
Ms. Hill, 58, conducts business from her windowless office in the former bank vault, one of her cats meandering in to curl up atop a file cabinet.
She said her accounting and business experience help her oversee the clinic’s $250,000 budget. Private donations constitute 50 percent, she explained, and fund raising, grants and copays make up the balance, with no government support.
In the case of Freckles, Dr. Benton explained that she would consult a colleague who is a veterinary ophthalmologist to map out a plan.
In the meantime, Freckles would receive medication to help make her comfortable and to ease the swelling.
If surgery is required, the non-profit clinic sometimes refers pets to private vets who deeply discount their services and Pets In Need subsidizes the cost.
However, every qualified client at minimal cost can obtain basic health services for their animals and food, if needed (see sidebar.)
Three times a week the facility also serves as a teaching clinic for veterinary technology students at the University of Cincinnati, Blue Ash branch, Ms. Hill said. Dr. Benton was attending Freckles as an instructor in that program.
Applications are accepted weekdays between 10 am and 2 pm.
For a $10 copay, the following services are available by appointment for enrolled pets:
- An exam by a licensed veterinarian
- Testing for heartworm and feline leukemia
- Treatment of minor skin, ear or eye problems.
- Vouchers for low-cost spay/neuter surgeries
For a $5 copay, the following monthly supplies may be picked up on weekdays without an appointment:
- Monthly flea and heartworm prevention
- Prescription refills
- Booster vaccines
The clinic receives no government support. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all donations are tax-deductible.
Donations may be made online at www.PINCincinnati.org.
Pets in Need of Greater Cincinnati is located at 520 W. Wyoming Ave., Lockland, Ohio 45215, telephone 513-761-PETS. Email is
A graduate of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Benton said the clinics give students hands-on experience and interaction skills with pet owners.
Lexie Stevenson, 49, of Anderson Township, volunteers several days a week at the clinic. Her family has adopted three, mixed-breed dogs and four cats.
In the recent past, she drove to the West Side to help a suddenly homeless woman care for her five German Shepherds until she found housing. The woman had been living beneath a bridge.
“She does the best she can,” said Ms. Stevenson of the client she continues to see. “She loves her animals.”