If you are like most pet owners, you use a trusted local veterinarian and you probably can’t imagine taking your beloved dog or cat to anyone else. But you may also eventually find yourself in a sticky situation on a holiday, the weekend or evenings. Your family pet is sick, or worse yet, has been hit by a car or attacked by another animal and needs immediate veterinary attention. But your vet, and every other vet within reach is closed. Fortunately, for those of us living in the Southern Crescent, the SAVES Center is here to save the day! SAVES is the South Atlanta Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center in Fayetteville. They are open 24 hours per day for emergencies when your local vet is closed, and are available during regular office hours (Monday through Thursday 8:30 am-5:30 pm) for specialty care and daytime ICU.
Dr. Michael “Mike” Younker, CEO of SAVES, is clear that his organization is not out to compete with your local veterinarian for business. In fact, SAVES does not provide their patients with any routine services such as heartworm testing and prevention, spaying or neutering. “Our goal at SAVES is to be an extension arm of your local veterinarian,” explains Dr. Younker. “We want to act as if we were working for your vet. Our aim is to get your pet back to your vet for follow up and continuing care just as soon as possible.”
SAVES has long served the emergency needs of pet owners south of Atlanta, beginning in the 1970s as the Metro Atlanta Animal Emergency Clinic in Forest Park. After Dr. Younker graduated from vet school in 1982, he became a board member for the clinic. They decided to move the clinic to Riverdale, which better reflected their current clients.
By 2001, as the clinic’s owners began to retire, the clinic needed a fresh start. So once again they moved, this time starting a new business known as the Southern Crescent Animal Emergency Clinic on Highway 54 in Fayetteville. In 2016, the Highway Department forced their hand due to road construction and they were obligated to move once again.
Dr. Younker saw this, not as an unfortunate circumstance but, as an opportunity. “I love change and I see it as an opportunity to grow,” he explains. “This twist of fate enabled us to move toward a really big vision. We immediately starting planning to rebrand and expand the practice, not only to become the premier small animal emergency clinic, but also to become a state of the art specialty practice, recruiting some of the best veterinarians in the nation to come work at our facility.”
His vision and that of his colleagues, is well on its way to being realized. They went from a 5,000-square-foot building to a 14,000-square-foot state-of-the-art center. The facility includes a CT scanner as well as an ICU, with plans to add an MRI scanner in the near future.
The vision of a specialty center is coming into sharp focus as well, with surgical and ophthalmology specialty services available during the day by appointment. They also have a dermatologist and cardiologist on staff, and there are active plans to add internal medicine and neurology specialists as well.
Dr. Eric Storey, former head of ophthalmology at LSU and a tertiary care specialist, heads up the ophthalmology department. Dr. Storey is one of only five veterinarians in North America who repairs detached and torn retinas, and dogs are flown in from all over the country for his expert care. Dr. Dan Brogdon, who is also the Medical Director for SAVES, specializes in ophthalmology and works alongside Dr. Storey to provide their patients with exemplary care for eye diseases and injuries.
Dr. Andrea Smith, a hometown gal from Peachtree City, heads the surgery department. She attended vet school at the University of Georgia and completed her residency at UC Davis. Dr. Smith specializes in soft tissue surgery, orthopedics and neurology, specifically disc disease, which can be a devastating problem for many animals.
As you can imagine, SAVES is a very busy place, day or night, as there are 35 stakeholders. These stakeholders are other area veterinarians who are also investor/owners in the center, with a board of directors of eight veterinarians, including Dr. Brogdon and Dr. Younker. These stakeholder vets come from several counties, including south Fulton, Henry, Butts, Pike, Coweta and Jackson and all actively refer their emergency and specialty patients to SAVES
“As you can imagine,” points out Dr. Younker, “things can get really busy here at night. Weekends are our heaviest and sometimes you might have to wait awhile to be seen, as we triage our patients, meaning the severest emergencies get seen first.” In addition to their specialty veterinarians, SAVES has six emergency doctors on staff and an experienced team of twenty veterinary technicians.
Kingslea Thompson is the practice manager at SAVES and wears hats ranging from hiring to inventory to strategic planning. She worked for a time as a veterinary receptionist, so she understands what pet owners face when they come to SAVES “We realize that for the pet owner who has to face an emergency, this is a traumatic experience,” she says. “We value every person and every animal who comes through our doors.”
Dr. Younker underscores this. “SAVES provides emergency veterinary services that far exceed what most people even know exist,” he says. “We are confident we have raised the bar on emergency and specialty veterinary care and we continue to improve every day.”
SAVES Center is located at 1090 Highway 54 East in Fayetteville. Phone: (770) 460-8166