Animal Hospital closes after 40 years

This article was published 9 months ago.

Founder of North Shore Animal Hospital David Dunn is closing up shop on December 16th after being in business since 1982. (Libby O'Neill)

LYNN — After 40 years of business in Lynn, the North Shore Animal Hospital on Neptune Boulevard will close its doors next Friday, Dec. 16, nine months after Mission Veterinary Partners bought the practice in March.

In the lobby of North Shore Animal hospital, regulars brought their furry friends in for treatment while, behind the front desk, receptionists and staff were busy transferring patients’ records. Upstairs, the hospital’s founder and former owner David Dunn discussed the hospital’s closure following the corporate acquisition, shortened staff, and corporate layoffs.

“This group that I sold to was unable to get a single candidate to come in, and that was very disappointing. Because of that, you know, it kind of snowballed — people left,” Dunn said. “Everybody thinks that I just decided to close. That is not true. The reason I chose these guys [Mission Veterinary Partners] to sell to was to have some economic security. They promised me they would get us new doctors. They said they were the best at that. Of course, the guy who promised me that is no longer with them.”

Dunn opened the original North Shore Animal Hospital on the Lynnway in 1982. Six years later, he purchased the Neptune Street lot from the City of Lynn and built the current practice, where he and his son, Peter Dunn, would eventually spend their careers as veterinarians. David Dunn, nearing 74 years of age and looking to retire, sold the business to Mission Veterinary Partners in March, hoping that they would be able to, as promised, hire more veterinarians.

Within months of acquiring the practice, however, Dunn said North Shore Veterinary Hospital laid off five staff members in one day, and brought in an employee, who he described as being a less-than-ideal candidate. Dunn said that he offered to pay the manager’s salary out of his own pocket, but that Mission Veterinary Partners would not accept the offer.

“The first person that they asked to leave was my manager that I started the practice with, and she was kind of ready to go, but they brought in this manager who just did a lot of harm — he had no idea how to behave in a practice like this,” Dunn said. “ [Last week] they just came in and said, ‘we’re closing Dec. 16.’ A lot of people cried, including me. I’m just shocked by this.”

Dunn said that the practice, under his leadership, owed its success to its business model for around the clock care. He said that until recently, he has kept the same clients and employees for decades while still growing his clientele.

“Through the years, we had three principles: we took care of the patient, the owner, and then the animal hospital came third. And that always did us very well. That’s why people liked us and trusted us and stayed with us. We built up a big clientele,” Dunn said. “Some people have been with me for the whole 40 years, 30 years or 20 years, and the new people kind of started pushing them out.”

Dunn added that North Shore Animal Hospital had five doctors and was in the middle of one of its most productive years before Mission Veterinary Partners bought the business.

“When I sold it to them, I had five doctors. The best year we had, production-wise was the last year I owned it,” he added.

Mission Veterinary Partners’ Regional Vice President Larry Hawk, in an interview Monday, said that there were a myriad of reasons for the practice’s closure, but that sewage leaks in the basement, inability to recruit new candidates, and an already failing business were among them.

“The ability to recruit to that location has been impossible. We’ve had no one interested in coming there. When you combine that with facility challenges, sewage leaks, just everything,” Hawk said. “Did we have layoffs back in the September, October timeframe? Yes, we did. But the business was already in decline at that point. We had way too many people for the amount of business we had. We had people who were not performing as needed, so of course we’re going to make business changes. That’d be the only smart thing to do.”

When asked if he agreed with Dunn’s claims that the corporation bought the practice at its best, Hawk responded that such claims were not true in his opinion.

“Absolutely not,” Hawk said. “Everyone has their opinion, right? No, not in my opinion.”

When the question was reworded, asking if it was true that the practice was purchased at its best, financially, before it was sold, Hawk said that he could not comment.

“Couldn’t comment on that,” he said.

Hawk said that Mission Veterinary Partners, which plans on re-opening in 12-15 months, can not be blamed for the practice’s shutdown.

“It takes a lot of work, a lot of heavy lifting, to make these transitions successful, which we have done 340 times, 350 times, whatever. Of the number of hospitals we’ve acquired, we’ve had one, one, North Shore Animal Hospital, that failed. That’s pretty good odds. So to blame it on MVP? No, I don’t accept that,” Hawk said.

Dunn said that the sewage leaks in the hospital’s basement were promptly repaired and had nothing to do with the practice’s closing.

“The story about sewage leaks and all that, that that did happen, but that we cleaned that up. That had nothing to do with them closing the practice,” Dunn said.

With few veterinary clinics still open in the region, many North Shore pet owners are unsure of where to go for their animals’ healthcare needs. Joan White, who has been a loyal client at North Shore Animal Hospital for 40 years, said that she was tremendously disappointed to hear that it would close. She said that on one occasion, Peter Dunn, on a Sunday, when the practice was closed, met her at the hospital to care for her sick dog.

“It was the best animal hospital ever. It’s tragic, tragic that it’s closing,” White said. “Best care in the world. You pick up the phone and call, even if it’s 10:00 at night a doctor comes, no questions asked.”

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