COLLEGE STATION – September, 2004, Dedication of the newly completed expansion area of the Stevenson Companion Life-Care Center, which provides lifelong care of pets whose owners can no longer do so, will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 1, at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University.
The new 3,500-square feet addition will greatly expand the Stevenson Center, which was established in 1993. Clients of the center include pet owners who want to assure their pet’s future prior to entering a retirement home, being hospitalized for an extended period or predeceasing their pet. It is the only such center in the Southwest and one of the few in the United States.
“We are so grateful to all the people who donated more than $600,000 toward the expansion project,” said Dr. Henry L. Presnal, Director of the Center. “The five-year fund raising initiative resulted in 125 gifts from 98 donors. Special plaques have been placed throughout the building to recognize our major donors.”
The expansion increases the facility to 8300 square feet for small animals. Current residents include 15 cats, 11 dogs, a pony and a llama.
“The expansion was needed to accommodate our growing number of animal enrollees,” Presnal explained. “We have 94 owners from 18 different states with approximately 250 animals enrolled to enter the Center at various times in the future. This expansion allows us to comfortably care for our future residents in a home-like atmosphere.”
The new addition includes a large living room, memorial garden area honoring deceased residents, three canine living areas each with an adjoining exercise yard, two feline bedrooms, an aviary, and a student apartment with a living area and attached patio.
The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center opened its doors in 1993, and is an integral part of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The privately funded center provides the physical, emotional and medical needs of companion animals whose owners are no longer able to provide that care due to illness or death.
Pet owners establish an endowment with the Texas A&M Foundation generating a perpetual income to support the lifetime care of their animal. “When the pet passes away, the income from the endowment may be directed toward other college initiatives such as scholarships, a particular research project or can remain with the center in accordance with the owner’s wishes,” said Presnal.
The minimum endowment to secure enrollment in the Center depends on the age of the youngest owner at the time of enrollment. “The endowment for each animal can be established by bequest through a will or trust, or can be fully paid-up at the time of enrollment with a considerable discount,” Presnal explained.
The majority of enrolled pets at the Center have no family guardian to care for them, or the family is not able to take on this additional responsibility. “I want to emphasize that the people who enroll their pets in our program are ordinary people who share a special love for their animals,” noted Presnal. “Typically, they are people who have accumulated some savings over the years, and have planned ahead to ensure their pet is cared for when they are no longer able to take care of it.”
The Center, because of its close association with College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, offers many unique benefits. “We are still the only facility of this kind associated with a major university that offers the extent of care we provide to our animals,” Presnal said.
Texas A&M students live in apartments at the Center and provide daily care and companionship for the animals in a home environment. “This is a mutually rewarding situation for both the students and the animals,” according to Presnal. “The students are typically aspiring veterinarians, so the Center provides hands on educational experiences for them.”
When the pets need medical attention, their care is provided by the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. “Their knowledge of the latest advances in veterinary medicine, combined with their specialized facilities, ensures the best possible care for our residents,” Presnal noted.
Presnal, a retired veterinarian, has served as the Center’s director for about seven years. “This is the perfect job and second career for a veterinarian who has organizational and business skills that they want to use, while still getting to work with veterinarians, pet owners and their animals,” said Presnal. “I get to deal with all the good things in life.” The Center is located on ten acres adjacent to the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and is named after the late Madlin Stevenson, a Houston-area animal fancier, and early major supporter of the project. Stevenson died in 2000 and her for cats, seven dogs, pony and llama came to reside at the Center upon her death. The Center is located in the W.P. Luse Building, named in recognition of the Luse Foundation’s support of the Center’s early development.