I recently adopted a pet from your shelter and was given a long list of cooperating veterinarians who would give it a free physical. How does a person go about choosing a veterinarian?

Many factors should be considered in choosing a clinic or pet hospital. The first step in choosing a veterinarian is finding someone who has a good reputation. You might start by asking people you trust, such as family, friends, neighbors, groomers and local pet store owners. Another good source is the local veterinary medical association, which should be listed in the phone book.Once you have a veterinarian in mind, the next step is to call the office and ask to stop by at a convenient time to meet him or her. A request for a brief visit is reasonable, and most doctors will be glad to oblige.

When talking to the veterinarian for the first time, consider the following:

1. Is the vet willing and able to explain medical matters to you in a clear, concise and sympathetic way?

2. Does this person seem to have a genuine love of animals?

3. Do you feel he or she views you and your pet as important individuals and not as just another case?

4. Where is the clinic located? In the case of severe injury or illness, you will want to get your pet in for help fast.

5. Is the clinic open during hours that don't conflict with your working hours?

6. When you enter the clinic, is it clean and does it smell good, or at least not have a bad odor, as if it were not being kept clean?

7. Are the employees courteous, friendly and helpful? Does it appear that they know how to handle the animals?

8. Do the veterinarian and the other employees answer all of your questions and explain problems and treatment options?

9. Cost of service can be a factor also. Some clinics charge more and some less. Sometimes the least cost can be the most expensive in the long run. Be sure you know what services are being provided for what cost.

10. Is the clinic willing to refer difficult cases to a specialist or another vet for a second opinion? This may show that they have your pet's best interest at heart.

11. Does the clinic work on an appointment basis? Appointments generally cut down on your waiting time and also tend to separate the animals so that a pet with a contagious disease is less likely to expose other animals while everyone sits and waits.

12. Are emergency services available?

Good luck in finding a good veterinarian for your pet. The veterinarian can be an invaluable partner in helping your pet live a log and healthy life.

- If you have a question about health, behavior problems, laws, etc., regarding wild or domestic animals, please write Leslie Kelson-Probert, Salt Lake County Animal Services, 511 W. 3900 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84123, or call her at 264-2247.