Vet does heavy lifting for needy pets

UPF3United Pet Fund’s Dr. Zekoff, on truck, with a helper, moving donations. UPF secures and organizes donations to distribute to the 150-plus “mom and pop” Tri-State groups that serve animals in need.

BLUE ASH, Ohio–At his veterinarian school, it is unlikely that “fork lift operation” was listed as an elective.

Dr. Zeke Zekoff could have used it.

As founder and president of United Pet Fund (UPF), the veterinarian often transitions from performing surgery, to moving semi truckloads of donations by forklift at the non-profit’s Costco-like warehouse here.

“United Pet Fund (UPF) supports an army, the lesser-known army of people who help animals in need,” explained Zekoff, a full-time veterinarian who started UPF 10 years ago.

UPF secures and organizes donations to distribute to the 150-plus “mom and pop” Tri-State groups that serve animals in need.

Dr. Zekoff explained animal rescue groups often suffer from “compassion fatigue,” overwhelmed by needs.

UPF’s volunteers support these groups by providing donated products, so volunteers can focus on caring for animals, he explained.

For needy animals, he described UPF as “a combo” of Matthew 25: Ministries, the international humanitarian and disaster relief organization headquartered in Cincinnati; United Way and the USO, which provides support for military members and their families.

A sampling of donations received from corporations, manufacturers and individuals includes five semi truckloads of Bounty Towels from Procter & Gamble.

A national pet food organization, Rescue Bank, has delivered semi-truckloads of pet food from Iams and Alpo, and Blue Buffalo often contributes large food donations.

Also, as part of UPF’s community-sharing philosophy, Matthew 25: Ministries donated 1200 domed litter boxes from Kao that can be transformed into feral cat shelters or housing for smaller animals, such as ferrets.

Aside from supplies, UPF supports continuing education for volunteers and rescue group personnel. UPF also provides handyman services; pet health day events in under-served areas, such as Over-the-Rhine; and emergency funds.

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Dr. Zeke Zekoff, 58, known as “Dr. Z.”

Title: Founder & President, United Pet Fund (UPF), Blue Ash.

He also has owned and operated Towne Square Animal Clinic, Blue Ash, for 30 years.

Education: DVM from Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine in Alabama. He also earned his BS in Animal & Dairy Sciences there.

Routine: Up at 3:45 a.m., Dr. Zekoff arrives at his clinic at 5 a.m. to do two hours of UPF paperwork. He then performs spays/neuters from 7-9 a.m., sees patients all day, and leaves the clinic at 5:30 p.m. for the UPF offices and warehouse. There he meets with groups and distributes supplies, among other things.

Family: Wife Barbara and Dr. Zekoff hail from the South. More than 30 years ago they considered Cincinnati to be a temporary stop after vet school. The couple have three children. Alex, 29, is working on his MBA from University of California at Berkeley and looks to return to Deloitte as a consultant; Austin, 26, graduated from Miami University and works at Ernst & Young in New York City as an advisory assistant; and Ashley, 22, graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in marketing and operates her own fitness training business.

Pet: The “pawed” love of his life,” a 5-year-old Cavapoo dog named Hunter, often is with him daily.

Hobbies: Weather permitting, he plays golf on Thursdays, “my day off.” Often on those Thursdays and weekends he travels with volunteers to pick up donations from as far away as Wisconsin.

Bottom line: “Pets are my ministry.”