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Plenty of furry patients for Boro vets
Clinics springing up, staffs expanding in Bulloch
082307 BIZ VETS 1Web
Billy Nessmith, right, of Bulloch Veterinary Clinic helps carry "Charlie" to the car for pet owner Sharlyon Sikes after an examination. Nessmith has been practicing for 34 years. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Vet WMV 8-23-07

Bulloch Veterinary Clinic

          With 10 veterinarians and six veterinary hospitals, Bulloch County residents have access to some of the best animal health care in the state of Georgia.

            "I am not surprised by the number of veterinarians that we have in Statesboro now," said Ben Nessmith, a Statesboro veterinarian and co-owner of the Bulloch County Veterinary Clinic. "Statesboro is a booming town, and as it continues to grow the demand for veterinary services continues to increase."

            Ben Nessmith practices with his father, Billy Nessmith, who is fondly referred to as Dr. Billy by his staff and patients. Nessmith is Statesboro's longest serving veterinarian still in active practice.

            "Bulloch Veterinary Clinic was started in the early 1950’s by Dr. John Cobb," Billy Nessmith said. "In 1971, after 2 years in the United States Army Veterinary Corp, I joined Dr. Comer Duggan in practice. For the following 30 years we practiced as partners.  In 2001 at Dr. Duggan’s retirement, my son, Dr. Ben Nessmith joined me.   We added a third veterinarian, Dr. Jay Hendley, to our practice in May of 2007."

            As with human medicine, Nessmith said he as seen veterinary medicine change immensely over the last four decades.

            "Thirty to forty years ago, livestock were the primary patients and being a vet was thought to be a rough and dangerous job," Nessmith said. "Today, the majority of veterinarians work on the family pet, not the family farm."

            Nessmith said the increasing importance of pets in the lives of their owners has changed the primary focus of most veterinarians."

            "With the shift of families to urban areas, the family pet has become an integral part of the household," he said. "This human /animal bond has changed the expectation for pet veterinary care.  Pet owners want and expect medical care comparable to that which they themselves receive."

            Statesboro veterinarian Gary Edwards agrees with Nessmith's assessment of today's pet owner.

            "Pets have gone from living outside to living inside as part of a family," Edwards said. "There is an extreme bond there, and people care and love their pets as if they were human. They have become that important and for many people, a necessity."

            Edwards' wife, Debbie Edwards, is also a veterinarian. The Edwards, who own Gateway Animal Hospital on Highway 301 South, have recently opened a second location in Statesboro, Best Friends Animal Hospital on Brannen Street across from Gentilly Square.

            "We built Gateway Animal Hospital in June 2002," Edwards said. "We have been very fortunate, and because of that we simply had outgrown the Gateway location."

            "When this property became available, we knew it would be a great opportunity to expand and incorporate some of the new technology that is now available."

            Edwards isn't the only veterinarian to open a new facility in Statesboro. Veterinarian Barry Wolfe just recently opened the Brampton Animal Hospital in the Market District behind East Georgia Regional Hospital.

            Wolfe's operation is an impressive facility designed for expansion and convenience.

            "I grew up in Statesboro and starting working with veterinarian Steve Lee in his kennels when I was ten years old," Wolfe said. "I have always dreamed of owning my own practice and working here in Statesboro."

            After working with local veterinarian William "Buddy" Morgan and then ownership of a practice in Swainsboro, Wolfe returned to Statesboro to build his dream facility.

            "I want to provide quality medical care for animals at a down home price," he said. "I want to provide the best care that I possibly can, and I just felt this was a great location right in the middle of professionals and university students."

            Morgan, who bought the Statesboro Animal Hospital from veterinarian Stan Lee in 1988, said veterinary medicine is becoming much more specialized and due to the differences in demand, doctors are being forced to limit their practice to either small or large animal care.

            "The number of small pet owners has exploded, and they demand a very high level of care for their pets," Morgan said. "It is very difficult to provide that and continually leave the office to attend to large animals. You really have to choose to do one or the other."

            Morgan said the trend is towards more specialization in veterinary care.

            "There are vets that are strictly orthopedic surgeons, eye surgeons, dermatologists and the list goes on," he said. "Veterinary medicine is probably where human medicine was 30 to 40 years ago."

            Local veterinarians do not seem to be concerned about the number of veterinarians that are practicing in this area.

            "It may seem as if we have a lot of veterinarians in our community, but there really is plenty of business to go around," Edwards said. "I must brag on the vet community here, because I think all of the veterinarians are very capable and very good."