Ownership of Lanett Animal Clinic stays in family

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 2, 2019

LANETT — Dr. Jerry Thomas was forced to retire as the Lanett Animal Clinic’s veterinarian this past summer, but his children, Forrest and Meredith Thomas have stepped up to carry on the family business.

Forrest Thomas is now the practice manager, although he juggles his time between two full-time jobs at the clinic and a surgical nurse with East Alabama Medical Center. He took over managing the clinic after his father suffered a stroke in July and recently convinced his sister to move back to Chambers County to be the clinic’s full-time veterinarian.

Now, the business is in the process of building its client base back up while letting the community know it’s still there.

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“We want to let the community know we are still here even with the change and welcome everybody,” Forrest Thomas said. “My father worked too hard to give this place away.”

Forrest Thomas said it was to the point where the family had to choose —  put a closed sign on the door and sell the land and the building or try to save the business.

The Thomas family chose to save it.

After their father had his medical struggles, the business never closed to the public. Forrest Thomas hired a few relief veterinarians to work until his sister could get back to Chambers County.

Meredith Thomas began working at the clinic at 14 years old as a kennel assistant. She worked her way up through the business until going to Auburn University to study a pre-veterinary curriculum with a focus on microbiology. After Auburn, she graduated from Tuskegee University’s School of Veterinary Medicine in 2004.

After a few years of working with her father, she moved away and worked in the veterinary field for 10 years until coming back to her father’s clinic.

“I feel like I never left, honestly. It feels like home when I come into the door,” Meredith Thomas said. “I’ve enjoyed being back and being here on a full-time basis starting (in September.)”

Since returning, she notices systems she implemented before she left and gets emotional when she sees patients and customers who have been clients of her father for more than 20 years.

“I get teary-eyed because I see now that he built this up, and it is so humbling that have people who come and remember me when I was younger,” Meredith Thomas said. “These people are still with us and still bringing their animals here.”

Now that she’s back in her father’s clinic, she knows it’s where she is supposed to be.

“I knew in my heart that was always my destiny. It just wasn’t the right timing, and now it is,” Meredith Thomas said. “Part of being away for the 10 years was when I developed the skills needed to bring to the future of the Lanett Animal Clinic.”

Jerry Thomas opened the Animal Clinic in 1984 down the road on Highway 50, and then in 1994, he built the current location at 815 Veterans Memorial Parkway.

However, the business will change a bit under the new management.

Forrest Thomas said every animal coming through the clinic’s doors will have an exam. Also, the animal hospital wants to be able to educate the patient’s owner about what is needed, not just tell them.

Meredith Thomas said it’s about giving a range of options to the customer.

“We are not picking and choosing for them,” she said. “If this is not something that you want to do, then tell us.”

She said the clinic wants to improve the patient/doctor relationships and communication.

“I think it’s important for our clients to know we want to see their pet as a young animal throughout every stage of its life,” Meredith Thomas said. “That is a fulfilling part (as a veterinarian) to be that for your client.”