A seasoned New York veterinarian has opened a new practice in Long Neck.

Dr. April Reid, 51, is a worldly woman with all sorts of experiences. She went to Virginia Tech and majored in art history before moving to San Francisco to sell art. When she didn’t find that fulfilling, she thought about working in the foreign service or for the State Department, much like an aunt she looked up to stationed in east Africa.

But Reid’s true calling was for animals, and she had a real passion for horses. She had five as a child, and wanted to be a jockey from a young age. Of course, jockeys have to be small, and Reid is average, so that was an impossibility. She balked at the idea of veterinary school – math and science weren’t her strong points. For a while, she intended to go to law school.

Around age 30, Reid felt she needed to make a decision. She took the plunge and applied to veterinary school. After being wait-listed at some stateside schools, she started looking into studying abroad. Her mother knew someone who had studied at Ross Veterinary School on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.

“I thought I’d go for a semester or two and then transfer back to Virginia Tech or another school,” Reid said. “But I ended up finishing my degree there.”

Today, St. Kitts has a cruise ship port and is a thriving tourist destination, but in 1995, it was a very poor country with few modern luxuries.

“It was very cool to live on an island in the Caribbean. It was gorgeous,” Reid said. “But I wouldn’t do it again. I’m a New York girl.”

Her class at Ross had just 15 people. They studied on the beach and played softball between classes, and there were some advantages to studying veterinary medicine in a place like St. Kitts.

“Because of all the animal rights stuff going on in the States at the time, students couldn’t start performing surgeries until they were doing clinicals,” Reid said. “So I had a bit of an advantage. I had already worked on a dog and a donkey by the time I got to clinicals.”

After two and a half years in St. Kitts, Reid traveled to Baton Rouge for her clinical studies. She took the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates test to be licensed to practice in the United States, and set her sights on a horse track, immediately going to work for a racetrack veterinarian in Ohio. Reid bought his practice a year later, in 1999.

The road to Sussex

“It really feels like, especially when you first see a foal in a pasture, that [racing] is what they’re born for. They want to do it,” she said. “A lot of them were happy. Some of them were better taken care of than some people. You really do get attached to the horses.”

However, other aspects of horse racing quickly wore on the doctor.

“We raced at night and training usually started at 6 o’clock in the morning, so you get there at 5 a.m. and leave at midnight, seven days a week,” she said. “I was always on call and I really didn’t do a good job at setting boundaries. I had my own horses and I had to pay people to ride them because I didn’t have time.”

Reid said the male-dominated environment could be challenging, but it was the tough role veterinarians play in the horse-racing world that ultimately drove her to leave.

“It seemed like, the longer I was there, the more they were racing them instead of giving them breaks in between, and that started to bother me,” she said. “The owner wants to make money so they always want the horse running, even if they have pneumonia. And the horses hated me, because every time they’d see me I’d be sticking them with a needle. I just got burnt out on the whole thing.”

Once again, Reid took the plunge, opting to sell her equipment and leave her veterinary business behind. She stayed in the Midwest for a few years, tending to the same clients on the horse racing circuit, before heading to New York for law school. There, on the weekends, she worked at a hospital for small animals. She realized the relationship between people and their pets was different than that between owners and racehorses.

“I realized I liked it a lot,” she said. “Better than law school.” She dropped out after one semester.

Reid worked at Banfield Pet Hospital in Brooklyn for three years. The idea of owning her own practice started to form in her head, but there was a problem: rent. She paid $3,500 a month for an 800-square-foot apartment in New York, and prices were higher for retail space.

“My family had a house here at the beach, so I figured I’d come here, where the cost of living is so much cheaper, and eventually move back,” Reid said.

She transferred to the Banfield Pet Hospital in Salisbury and then began working at Millsboro Animal Hospital. She ran low-cost clinics at pet stores and offered vet-to-pet care, going to see animals in their homes. That meant a lot of in-home euthanasia. She found it to be a much-needed in this area, but taxing emotionally.

In January 2016, Reid enrolled at the University of Delaware, working on her master’s in business, still operating clinics and working as an in-home vet.

In early 2017, she happened across a great deal on a retail space in Long Neck. Once again, never one to shy away from a new opportunity, Reid leased the space in February. Her dream of a veterinary practice in New York had just moved to Sussex County.

A Long Neck practice

Peninsula Veterinary Services is starting out with seven employees and Reid as the sole vet. She said Peninsula is different from other practices in that it’s more client-oriented.

 “If you forget to ask me something at your appointment, you can email me,” she said. “If you’re worried about something and not sure if you should bring your animal in, you can email me. We’ll come to your home if you want. We take appointments, but we also take walk-ins and emergency visits.

“I’ll be there seven days a week. I do see myself with a larger hospital with more doctors at some point, and kind of being the managing doctor.”

Peninsula, 32028 Long Neck Road, opened May 1. The practice is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., making it only the second practice in Sussex County open every day. Office visits start at $65, and in the month of May, Peninsula has microchipping for $15. The practice takes care of dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice and rats, but not birds or reptiles.

For more information, visit peninsulaveterinaryservices.com or call 302-947-0719.