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CNN Today

For Some, Taking Their Pet to the Vet Knows No Boundaries

Aired January 31, 2000 - 2:54 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Finally, here, you feed them, you walk them. In return, they give you unconditional love. And there's no question, pets are part of the family.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: But just how far would you go if your pet gets sick? CNN's Frank Buckley now shows us some folks who prove that love knows no limits.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This fella may look like he's smiling, but the cone on his head is a better indicator of how he's feeling.

He's in the hospital, along with other dogs and cats and rabbits, and whatever else comes through the door that isn't human, at the Animal Medical Center in New York.

DR. SARAH CHARNEY, ANIMAL MEDICAL CENTER: Hi, Max. Hi, sweetheart.

BUCKLEY: In for an exam right now, Max, the cat: a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. George Mayer's vet bills to cover it exceeded his monthly income, but he didn't think twice.

GEORGE MAYER, CAT OWNER: It can prolong and give him years of good quality life. So, there seemed no choice.

BUCKLEY: Americans, from the president and his dog, to elderly ladies and their snakes, love their pets; and the doctors who treat them when they're sick say their owners really do feel their pain.

CHARNEY: It's very, very hard on people to have their pets ill. It's just like having a family member ill; and so, it's great to be able to try to ease some of their pets' pain and also their own pain.

BUCKLEY: The 80 veterinarians at the non-profit Animal Medical Center represent 20 different specialties. Health care for pets becoming more sophisticated; using the same technologies used on humans; and facing similar challenges when it comes to paying for it. Few have insurance.

DR. HAROLD ZWEIGHAFT, VETERINARIAN: This owner may not be able to afford a sonogram, or endoscopy, or hundreds of dollars in blood work to find out what's wrong with their pet. This is a tragedy.

BUCKLEY: Still, some people, like Jane Abbey, are willing to pay, whatever the price.

JANE ABBEY, PET OWNER: I've spent tens of thousands of dollars in this hospital over the years. In fact, when they were renovating, all the doctors and the staff would tease me. I know everyone; and they would say to me, "Jane, they should name a wing after you. You've given more money here than the largest benefactors."

BUCKLEY: And what pet owner wouldn't give, whatever they had, to save their best friend?

Frank Buckley, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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