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GOOD AS NEW: Dr. Richard Linn and his staff treat 100 small animals each week.
GOOD AS NEW: Dr. Richard Linn and his staff treat 100 small animals each week.

Business Spotlight: All Creatures Great and Small

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From alpacas to zebu, Ozark Veterinary Clinic Inc. has treated animals large and small for the past 60 years.

Among the menagerie are the typical cats and dogs, but also horses, ferrets, rabbits, bison, chickens, geese and even one goldfish.

“The goldfish had a rock lodged in his mouth,” says Dr. Richard Linn, co-owner of the longtime Christian County medical staple. “The owner brought him in because he was tapping against the glass, like he was asking for help. We just used some forceps and removed the rock. Good as new.”

The 32-person staff treats roughly 100 small animals, such as household pets, each week at the 1802 State Highway 14 East clinic and about 20 larger animals, such as horses.
 
“Just yesterday, I treated a American bison and two zebu,” Linn says of the unique bovine and oxen historically used as draft animals. “On Monday, a cow came in calving and we delivered her.”

Home for the past 13 years, Linn and co-owner Dr. Rebecca Ketchem built the clinic for $1.3 million, moving the practice from its distinctive and somewhat iconic former home.

“We were always the mint green building on top of the hill,” Linn says of the original location built in 1957. “If you know Ozark, then you know that building.”

Dr. Herschel Chudomelka opened the practice back then and Linn joined in 1985, one year out of veterinary school. An Iowa native, helping animals runs in the Linn family. Not only was his father a veterinarian, but also three uncles and two cousins. Linn says he grew up as an assistant vet for his father’s mixed practice.

“I’m one of five boys and I think the main reason was so dad could have assistants,” he says with a chuckle.

Ketchem joined the practice in 1999 and the pair bought the business from Chudomelka in 2001. Linn says as the city of Ozark grew, the original clinic became landlocked and out of room to grow itself.

“We started the design process on the new place then; we wanted to get it just right,” he says. “Of course, when you design something, as soon as you’re done you realize all the mistakes you made.”

The clinic includes one operating room with two tables, a lab for blood and urine analysis, outdoor stalls and facilities for large animals, and room to board more than 20 animals. It’s also received some high-tech upgrades over the years, including digital radiology and lasers for surgery and therapy.

Up to five full-time vets on staff now, Linn says the clinic was built with expansion in mind.

On any given day, the waiting room is filled with curious puppies, unsettled felines and anxious owners. In 2016, the clinic generated $1.7 million in revenue, but Linn says profit margins are so slim in the vet business that number is deceptive.

“You make that much, but that’s about how much you spend to keep the wheels moving,” he says.

Large animals used to make up roughly half of the clinic’s business, but these days small animals represent about 90 percent of all appointments.

“We see at least one large animal every day, but we see about 30 dogs or cats,” he says.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates Americans own 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats. That’s roughly 44 percent of all U.S. households with a dog and 35 percent with a cat.

Walnut Shade resident Barb Oney’s household has a dog – 10 dogs, actually. She’s used Ozark Veterinary Clinic for at least 20 years.

“I have rescue dogs and sometimes they need immediate care,” she says. “They’ve always been great about taking care of all of them, even on weekends. They even come down and care for my horses.”

Ozark Veterinary Clinic has one vet on call at all times to handle emergency situations. Linn says that can range from a dog hit by a car to animals that swallow something they shouldn’t.

“I was on call Friday and we had seven or eight calls between 5 p.m. and midnight,” he says. “One dog swallowed a pop tab.”

Oney doesn’t travel far for animal care – Walnut Shade is just 10 miles outside Ozark – but Linn says patients are from a roughly 50-mile area, ranging from Springfield and Marshfield to Douglas and Taney counties. The clinic’s services include surgery, microchipping, preventative care, dentistry and euthanasia.

If that doesn’t keep them busy enough, the staff is active in the Ozark community, taking part in everything from Relay For Life to the MS 150, 4-H Club Kiwanis. Linn also is part of Christian Veterinary Missions and will make his 16th trip overseas to India later this month. He cares for animals such as goats, rabbits and buffalo, as well as teaching and training locals on animal selection and breeding.

“In India or at home, these pets all become a part of our family,” Linn says, noting he’s between personal pets right now but has four grandcats. “We see some of these pets their entire lifespan. That’s a good feeling.”

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