Dr. Mary Lombardo, owner of the Mahoning Valley Animal Hospital, is being honored by her peers as the Pa. Veterinarian of the Year.

She is receiving the award because of her staunch campaigning for spaying and neutering of pets, and for her outspokenness against puppy mills.

The Veterinarian of the Year award is presented annually by the Pennsylvania Veterinarian Medical Association. The presentation is scheduled for Aug. 13 at the Keystone Veterinary Conference in Hershey. She won't be present to accept the award, though. She has a trip planned for Poland at that time.

It's the second year that a local veterinarian has received the prestigious honor. Last year it was given to Dr. Karin-Susan Breitlauch of Creature Comforts Veterinary Service of Saylorsburg for her assistance and rescue work at a Franklin Township kennel fire.

Dr. Lombardo said it was her work against puppy mills which received the most attention from the committee that presents the awards.

She had rescued numerous dogs from puppy mills and worked to successfully find homes for them.

"We try to make the public aware that at puppy mills, (dog) parents that stay in them and breed have a life of misery."

She said many dogs sold in pet stores, through brokers, or via the Internet, originate from puppy mills.

She noted that Pennsylvania has passed stringent laws against puppy mills, which is why she rescued some for adoption. Because of the laws Pa. has passed, "Breeders must take better responsibility for their dogs," she said."

Dr. Lombardo personally adopted two of the dogs she has rescued. One is Hopi, a mixed breed she got in Arizona while visiting a Native American reservation, and Emma, a puppy mill dog found in Pa. She said Emma is a yellow lab who has serious emotional issues. As a result, had Dr. Lombardo not adopted her, there's a good chance Emma would have been euthanized.

She gave a public talk several weeks ago on Pennsylvania's new kennel law to kennel owners, breeders, groomers, and rescue groups.

She helped to organize the Amazing Grace Spay and Neuter Program in Carbon County which offers low-cost spay and neutering to family pets of qualifying families.

"This is one of my pet projects," she said, with no pun intended. "It was organized to get more people to spay and neuter their pets."

She has made visits to Native American reservations to do spay and neutering.

The honoree has been assisting the Mahoning Lions Club at its annual rabies clinic for the past 22 years.

She volunteered at the annual Polka-for-Pets, held at the Lehighton Community Grove, and Howl-O-Ween, held at the Lions Pavilion in Mahoning Township, both held in an effort to find homes for homeless animals.

Dr. Lombardo is married to Joseph Zenon. They reside in Mahoning Township with their four dogs, five cats, two birds, one pig, one pony, two donkeys, and two horses.

She opened the Mahoning Valley Animal Hospital in 1989. She said her father-in-law, the late Joseph Zenon Sr., constructed the animal hospital.

"I have a lot of people to thank over the years, especially my father-in-law," she said.

She added, "I can't take all the credit for this award. Because Pa. passed the most stringent laws on kennels, it made it possible for me to help rescue some of the dogs."

She said the support of her employees at the hospital allowed her to send out e-mails regarding puppy mill atrocities.

"I have the support of my husband who lets me do all these crazy projects and bring all the animals into the house," she said.