Harlem Animal Hospital Owner Has a Heart for Helping Pets in Distress
HARLEM — Dr. Giovanna Kiani was running from room to room at the Harlem Animal Hospital on Lenox Avenue at 119th Street. In one room was a pug with allergies, and on the phone was another dog owner trying to pick up Prozac for his pet.
But when an animal rescue volunteer brought in a neglected 12-year-old Siamese cat with an infected patch of raw skin over its right eye, Kiani hopped into action.
"She's a mess and she needs to be bathed," said Kiani, 30, as she pulled the cat's gums back to reveal rotting teeth. She showed the rescue worker the cat's swollen lymph nodes, likely indicating a tooth infection, and then took a sample from the broken skin to determine what type of infection the cat had.
"They would have put her down at the city shelter," Kiani said.
Helping animals like the Siamese is one reason why Kiani opened the hospital in April.
Kiani renovated a 2,000-square-foot former residential space on the ground floor of a Lenox Avenue brownstone in Mount Morris Park to include state-of-the-art surgical and dental suites, an area for digital radiography, an isolation unit and an area for grooming.
She has four full-time employees.
In the basement is the boarding area where Kiani keeps up to 25 rescued cats and dogs that she has coaxed back to health.
She's also one of a growing number of animal care providers, pet supply stores and groomers in Harlem that have arrived as the neighborhood gentrified.
"It feels like it has happened overnight and it speaks to the demographic that we now have that can spend on their pets at this level," said Nikoa Evans-Hendricks, executive director of business development group Harlem Park to Park.
The animal hospital is the second pet-related business to join Harlem Park to Park in the last year. Doggedly Devoted, a doggy daycare and training center on 116th Street, between Lenox and Fifth avenues, is the other.
East Harlem, Morningside Heights and Central and West Harlem have a combined 33,000 to 45,000 cats and dogs, according to 2012 data from the city's Economic Development Corporation. That's on par with the Upper West Side, Upper East Side and parts of Staten Island.
"You used to have to take your pet all the way downtown for treatment," said Elizabeth Farren, a rescue worker for the Patricia Ladew Foundation, who brought the Siamese in for treatment and who lives nearby.
Kiani is a Columbia University graduate who received her veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and she has worked uptown for the ASPCA.
"I moved to Harlem because I know there is a high need for affordable pet care," she said. "It's not like the Upper East Side. I like to help a diverse group of people."
Bunny Hofberg, an animal rescue worker and founder of Frankie's Fund For Feline Care and Rescue on the Upper West Side, said Kiani is one of the few vets willing to help her with older cats such as a 10-year-old male that lost its eye. The owner wanted the cat euthanized.
Instead, Kiani performed surgery and is boarding the cat until Hofberg's next adoption fair.
"People open up businesses to make a living, but she tries as hard as she can to help because she cares about the pets," Hofberg said.
The Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals says that the number of animals euthanized by Animal Care & Control in 2013 fell to 6,124, a 10-year low from 31,701 in 2003.
Kiani refuses to turn some animals away because she knows they would likely be euthanized.
"I'm all heart," she said.
Kiani is organizing "Adopt Harlem," a fair that will be held on Saturday, Sept. 6 in the plaza of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. state office building at 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.
Various shelter groups will be invited, with some lowering their normal adoption fees. Kiani said she hopes to see hundreds of animals adopted.
"I know for a fact that people in Harlem love animals," she said.