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Outside the Box | Vet makes house calls

SJB Back Page Right at Home Vet Daniels 1609C


Carla Pilla-Daniels, DVM, says they don’t teach business in veterinary school, but she talks like a businesswoman. Terms like business plan, marketing and business model are mentioned frequently in conversation.

Daniels is the sole proprietor of Right At Home Veterinary Housecalls, a veterinarian who comes to her patients’ homes for a variety of services — everything from well visits and vaccinations to sick visits with prescription medicine. She said the only thing she doesn’t offer is anything requiring anesthesia, such as surgery.

Daniels, a self-professed animal lover, grew up volunteering at animal shelters and even the Jacksonville Zoo. She said she would do everything from petting and feeding animals to cleaning their cages, just to be around them. She was still unsure if she wanted to be a veterinarian, though, because the prospect of the amount of work involved terrified her. By the time she completed her bachelor’s degree in biology from Jacksonville University, she decided pursue her passion and attend veterinary school.

“I like to say, especially to young girls, to not shy away from your dreams. Your passion will take you there and you can be successful,” Daniels said.

Daniels earned her doctorate in veterinary medicine from Mississippi State University in 2005 and began her first professional job as an associate veterinarian in New York. At the time she had young twin daughters and found it difficult to balance work and family life. She next worked for a low-cost spay/neuter non-profit organization and performed surgeries in an RV.

“I learned a lot from these jobs that I carry with me today,” Daniels said.

Perhaps most importantly, at both of these places, as well as when she was still in school and worked as a veterinary assistant, the seed for her future business as a veterinarian who makes house calls was planted.

“People always asked, ‘Do you come to the house?’” Daniels said. “I knew there was a marked for this type of business, not as a competition with traditional veterinarians operating out of a brick and mortar building, but as an alternative for some patients.”

She started Right At Home Veterinary Housecalls in New York in 2014 and then a year later, when she and her family moved to St. Augustine, she had a year under her belt and felt she understood the business even more.

“First I figured out what I was going to do and then I figured out how I was going to do it,” Daniels said. “I supply a service to my customers and can make it accessible and affordable. Without those two, the business model wouldn’t work.”

Daniels said she is able to pass along savings to the customer since she doesn’t have the overhead of a veterinary office. The feedback she receives from her clients is that her services are reasonably priced.

She gets the majority of her business from word of mouth and social media. She gives potential clients a tailored estimate of the services requested, taking into account their location. At the appointment time, Daniels arrives with her supplies and a portable exam table, although often she sits on the floor with the pet. She is not a mobile veterinarian, operating out of a vehicle, but rather comes into the home.

“I have the flexibility to be in the pet’s environment,” Daniels said.

Daniels has partnered with several organizations and companies to provide the services she cannot, such as a local traditional veterinarian for surgical procedures, an after hours veterinarian for emergencies and a pet crematory, as she does provide euthanasia services. On her website she has a web store that carries all prescriptions and diet items that customers would have access to via a traditional veterinarian. Items may be ordered online and delivered to the client’s home.

As for the future, Daniels believes the possibilities are endless. She plans to become certified in veterinary acupuncture to increase her offerings to her clients. She feels that her business model is sound and has growth potential, possibly even becoming a franchise.

“I enjoy pets, but I like people too,” Daniels said. “This business allows me to have relationships with both and is well-suited for my family’s lifestyle. It is a privilege and an honor to be here and do this job.”

Photo courtesy Henry Daniels

Dr. Carla Pilla-Daniels performs an exam on a recent house call.


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