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Lehighton vet buys two animal hospitals

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    Dr. Dawn Mriss, new owner of Lehighton Animal Hospital and St. Francis Animal Hospital, with her pet dog, Maverick, who has just three legs but navigates with a wheelchair. Mriss has come full circle at the hospital, working as a kennel helper while in high school, then joining as a veterinarian, and now purchasing it. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    The veterinarian staff at Lehighton Animal Hospital and St. Francis Animal Hospital includes, from left, Dr. Christopher Carpenter; Dr. Dawn Mriss, who is also the owner; and Taylor Urban. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published March 16. 2019 06:43AM

Thirty years ago, when Dr. Dawn Mriss was a student at Lehighton Area High School, she worked for the Lehighton Animal Hospital as a kennel helper. The former Dawn Kocher always had a soft spot for animals.

She went on to college, became a veterinarian, and returned to the Lehighton Animal Hospital and its sister facility, St. Francis Animal Hospital in Tamaqua.

Now Mriss is the new owner of both those veterinary facilities. She purchased them several months ago.

Mriss is not only a hands-on owner, but she has plans to expand the services offered at both sites.

Both Lehighton Animal Hospital, located at Third and Mahoning streets in Lehighton, and St. Francis Animal Hospital on Route 309 in West Penn Township were founded by the late Dr. Jerry Bailey.

Bailey opened the Lehighton Animal Hospital in 1978 and St. Francis in the mid-1990s.

He was tragically killed on Feb. 8, 1998, at age 48 during a fire at his residence while trying to rescue his beloved pets. Investigators said he was cradling his pet black Lab in his arms when he lost his life.

“Some people remember me from working for Dr. Bailey,” she said.

Mriss has renamed her firm “Doctor Dawn’s LLC” but will continue doing business as Lehighton Animal Hospital and St. Francis Animal Hospital.

Mriss is the daughter of Paul and Vicki Kocher of Franklin Township. After graduating from high school in 1998, she did her undergraduate studies at Delaware Valley College and then graduated from Mississippi State University in 2005.

After Bailey’s death, the two hospitals were purchased by veterinarian Frank Bostick. After college, Mriss returned to her hometown and joined Bostick as a vet.

She said she continued her studies in veterinary medicine because, “I’ve always loved animals. I also was very interested in science growing up, so I put the two of them together.”

“I don’t like to see animals suffer, so trying to help them is my biggest goal,” she said. “Also, they don’t have a voice, so I try to advocate for them.”

Services offered by Mriss include normal vaccine preventive care, nail trimming, surgery, medical boarding and orthopedic care done by an orthopedist who comes to the sites for advanced procedures.

She has added laser therapy. This is used for inflammatory ailments and helps wounds heal faster. Examples of how it might be used include for arthritis, intervertebral disk, joint diseases, joint pain, past surgery incision and lacerations.

Laser treatment has been available for about two months. “I’ve seen some pretty significant case improvements,” she said. “We hope to provide acupuncture in the near future and other rehabilitative options.”

She has made some exterior improvements, mostly aesthetic work, but plans to do more.

“It’s going to take some time, but it’s only going to be for the positive,” she said.

Lehighton Animal Hospital and St. Francis Animal Hospital treat dogs and cats, pocket pets such as guinea pigs, rabbits and gerbils. They also perform routine maintenance on birds.

She said of the two hospitals, “We are the same. Lehighton and St. Francis are one and the same. The same services are provided at both.”

Just like Bailey used to do, Mriss continues performing a lot of services at Lehighton Animal Hospital for the Carbon County Animal Shelter. At St. Francis, they work with the Tamaqua Animal Rescue.

Doctor Dawn’s LLC has 12 support staff employees and two other veterinarians. The vets are Dr. Christopher Carpenter, who has been working at the two sites for 3½ years, and Taylor Urban, who just recently joined the firm.

Mriss is married to the former Patrick Mriss, Lehighton’s fire chief, who is also a lifelong Lehighton resident. They have two children, Brynn, 10, and Brian, 7. The family has two pets, a dog and a cat.

Their dog, Maverick, has just three legs, having lost one because of orthopedic problems. Mriss has a special wheelchair that Maverick uses to get around. She brings Maverick with her to work daily.

Mriss said plans for the facilities are that “I especially would like to provide more boarding and possibly a doggie day care. I would like us to be a rehab center as well.

“We also try to do preventive care,” she said, such as stressing the importance of flea and tick and heartworm medicine.

“The biggest thing I’ve seen is cases of Lyme disease and leptospirosis,” she said. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease. She said there are vaccinations for both.

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