BY INDIANA NASH
NISKAYUNA — The Animal Hospital of Niskayuna has much to celebrate this year.
It’s their 80th year in business, all at the same Troy-Schenectady Road location, and their 70th year of accreditation by the American Animal Hospital Association.
The accreditation is not automatic. There isn’t a regulation that requires animal hospitals to be accredited and the process is a lengthy one.
“It’s almost like a white-glove search,” owner Dr. Ronald Scharf said of the accreditation process. Each year, representatives from the AAHA visit the Animal Hospital of Niskayuna and check all the operations and the equipment, down to the way that the technicians record information.
There are over 900 AAHA accreditation requirements.
About 3,600 animal hospitals in the United States and Canada are accredited.
When Scharf took over the animal hospital in 1993 from Dr. Art Friderici, he knew he wasn’t buying a conventional animal hospital.
“Even in 1936, it wasn’t popular to have a small-animal practice,” Scharf said. People usually did their best to take care of their animals on their own and it was rare that people had the luxury to be able to take their animals to see a medical professional.
But Friderici was doing something right, because he brought in a fair number of four-legged patients from all over Niskayuna and the Capital Region.
Scharf has taken on the legacy and has been a part of a few other changes in the growing pet care industry.
“There’s been an increase of specialization,” Scharf said. He’s noticed that veterinarians are sending animals to various clinics and other veterinarians who are experts in a specific method of care.
“I’m old-school and new-school,” Scharf said. While he will readily admit when he can’t care for someone’s pet — such as when a customer asked Scharf to care for his sick tarantula — he will do as much research and try as many methods as he can before turning anyone away.
One pet owner, Carol Molino has been going to the Animal Hospital of Niskayuna since Scharf took over in 1993.
“He’s just gone above and beyond. Each of my pets were really sick at different times and he’s even called me when he was on vacation,” Molino said.
He’s also tried some unconventional treatment methods with Molino’s dog, Lucy.
She had hip dysplasia and was in a lot of pain every day, so Scharf had her come in for acupuncture to relieve some of that pain.
Scharf’s acupuncture treatments are another part of his “new school” way of thinking.
“There’s been a push towards an all-encompassing view of care, that’s why we have complimentary alternative medicine,” Scharf said.
In his 31 years as a veterinarian, Scharf said that he’s never really left school.
“Before a big procedure, I still hit the books,” Scharf said. A dedication to continuing education can also be seen in his monthly appearances on WAMC Vox Pop’s program “Pets and Vets”.
“He also has interns come into the appointments sometimes and I really appreciate that,” said Shari Brunner, another pet owner who has been going to Scharf for the past 20 years.
Brunner has had some high-maintenance animals, including one dog who must be given oatmeal baths to relieve symptoms.
But one moment in particular sticks out to Brunner in her experiences with Scharf:
“Back in 2002, my greyhound had to be put down,” Brunner said. After the procedure, Brunner was very upset and Scharf told her to stay in the room as long as she needed to.
“I must have been in there for at least 30 minutes,” Brunner said. She heard Scharf telling his next appointment that he was just going to have to start the appointment in the waiting room because his was occupied at the moment.