Chattanooga animal cancer center opening in South Broad District

Veterinary Care & Specialty Group growing by 27,000 square feet

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Construction continues at Veterinary Care and Specialty Groups Cancer Center on Nov. 20.
Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Construction continues at Veterinary Care and Specialty Groups Cancer Center on Nov. 20.

A Chattanooga veterinary care group plans to open an animal cancer center this month that its officials say will offer cutting-edge therapy for the region.

The 27,000-square-foot addition to the Veterinary Care & Specialty Group on Broad Street will include use of an advanced linear accelerator, a machine that directs radiation at cancer tumors with a high degree of accuracy and spares nearby healthy tissue.

"It shoots radiation of high-energy particles," Dr. Jason Strasberg, a veterinary radiation oncologist, at the Pullen Cancer Center, said in an interview.

Strasberg said a lot of dog and cat owners have waited for this type of treatment in the region.

"A lot of patients don't have the luxury of time," he said.

The Cancer Center, called one of the most advanced nationally, is located behind the group's 3201 Broad St. site that opened in 2020 and is headed by Dr. Billy Pullen. He earlier relocated the practice from offices in St. Elmo, growing from 4,100 square feet to more than 15,000 and providing 24/7 care.

 

(READ MORE: Veterinary Care & Specialty Group expands on Broad)

Claudia Pullen, his wife and co-owner, said in an interview the center is needed by pet owners in the tri-state region. The center is expected to increase the number of patients the animal hospital services from within four to six hours away, she said.

Pullen said the center purchased the newest model of linear accelerator rather than a refurbished machine, calling it a long-term investment and the most advanced for either humans or pets in the region. She said the machine is contained by 8-foot-thick concrete walls on the sides and 4-foot-thick walls on the front and back.

The equipment allows for precise treatment of tumors, especially those located in vulnerable positions such as the spinal cord or brain, and it offers shorter treatments and less anesthesia, according to officials.

The cancer center additionally will hold space for medical oncology and chemotherapy, more treatment rooms and added rehabilitation services, said Michael Ariail, the group's regional outreach coordinator.

"Now it's in a confined area," he said about the rehab services in an interview.

Ariail said the additions make the animal hospital one of the largest in the Southeast.

"It's equivalent to some veterinary hospitals with universities," he said, adding Veterinary Care & Specialty Group is the only non-academic location with the linear accelerator.

Pullen said the entire Broad Street facility is 42,000 square feet in size, noting it will offer more operating rooms and imaging services. Also, the cancer center has a continuing education room for seminar and a pet blood bank, and the site has room to grow, she said.

"Pets get cancer, the same as humans," Pullen said. "We offer the same treatment, the same hope, the same healing."

Pullen said the new facility is about $5 million, putting total investment at the site at $12 million. The group now has about 120 full-time staffers, and plans are to add 30 to 40 more in 2024 as it continues to grow, she said.

Dr. Jesse McKay, Erlanger Hospital's chief medical physicist, said in a statement it's surprising a city the size of Chattanooga would have such an animal cancer center.

"It will be the newest machine for pets and humans in Chattanooga," McKay said.

Pullen said she and her husband like the South Broad District. She said it has easy access to the interstate so clients can come in from outlying cities.

Pullen also earlier purchased a tract across Broad Street from the animal hospital adjacent to the Borough 33 residential complex.

(READ MORE: South Broad complex planned)

She has said she's looking at a Cambridge Square-like project with retail shops, offices, housing and green space is eyed for the nearly 5-acre tract located not far from the planned Chattanooga Lookouts ballpark.

Contact Mike Pare at [email protected] or 423-757-6318.


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