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Pet ShopTalk with Suzanne Cross
By Tracey Drury

Suzanne Cross has seen dozens of cases over the years of pet owners who opt to euthanize because they can’t afford surgery or treatment for a sick pet.

The introduction of pet insurance has created a whole new option for people who may not have thousands of dollars on hand but can afford a monthly payment for insurance.

“Most people can budget for that yearly visit or set aside money every month, but when it comes to those huge bills with illnesses and injuries, that’s when people are really stuck,” says Cross, veterinary practice manager of Brighton-Eggert Animal Clinic in Tonawanda. “It’s not just a pet anymore; it’s a family member. So to have to say no, they just feel horrible. This is a way for us to help and maybe make sure they can take on the recommendation to treat their animal.”

After months of research into different pet insurance plans, Brighton-Eggert last summer began a partnership with Petplan pet insurance.

The very practice offers patients a free, 30-day trial along with education and information about how to sign up. That generates an email from the company and additional information about the costs, depending on the age and breed of the pet, previous illnesses and what kind of premiums and deductibles might work for the owner.

In February, the insurer honored Cross as its 2013 Practice Manager of the Year during an awards dinner in Las Vegas. She was selected from among 2,200 nominations from pet owners across the country. Besides nominations from pet owners, Cross was recognized for her customer service and relationships with everyone who visits the clinic.

In addition to the trip to Vegas for herself and husband Jay, Cross has been invited to participate as a judge for the 2014 Veterinary Excellence Awards. She also received $1,000 for the charity of her choice: Tabby Town, a nonprofit cat rescue and adoption organization that operates from McKinley Mall.

Choosing Petplan to recommend to patients wasn’t a quick process. Cross said she wanted to make sure the company she chose to promote was something she could truly stand behind. But she’s since seen customers use the insurance for everything from removal of a cancerous tumor to surgery for torn ligaments. In some cases, that included insurance coverage for 90 percent of a $2,000 procedure. And that’s led to expanded care for animals.

“If the owners have this insurance, they’re going to say yes to the recommendation (of the vet), knowing they’ll be able to afford it,” she said. “I like being able to make a difference helping the lives of pets and their owners. I love seeing the smiles when they come in. It’s very rewarding to see the changes we’re able to make and the help we’re able to do.”

A graduate of Medaille College, Cross is a licensed veterinary technician and holds a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. With 17 years of experience in the industry, she came to Brighton-Eggert five years ago, after working for practices in Georgia. Thought she loves animals, the Cross household is pet-free after the loss of two dogs and a cat in the past 18 months. But with a baby on the way, Cross says she gets her “puppy fix” every day at work.

The good stories – such as a Rottweiler who has had her entire litter of 13 puppies survive or the “polydactyl” kittens with 10 toes – can be tempered by sick animal cases. Working as a vet isn’t just about cuddling with animals all day. There’s also the clean-up of vomit, abuse cases and of course helping owners deal with grief at the end of life. “

Still, it’s a very rewarding career,” she said. “You do get those happy times when we are able to make huge changes in peoples’ lives.”

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