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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For many of us, our pets are just like the other members of our family. We want them to receive the best medical care possible at a reasonable price. But how do you know if your pet is being treated by the best vet in your area? 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan teamed up with non-profit Delaware Valley Consumers’ Checkbook to find out which veterinarians rate the best in our region.

When it comes to the care of a pet, all veterinarians aren’t created equal. In fact, Robert Krughoff, President of Delaware Valley Consumers’ Checkbook, says, “We found big differences among these vets, both in terms of price and satisfaction.”

In the current edition of Delaware Valley Consumers’ Checkbook, 163 vet practices in our area were rated based on customer surveys and extensive price checks.

“To neuter a six-month-old 30-pound dog, Checkbook found prices among local vets range from $100-$555–a dramatic difference in price,” Krughoff explains.

According to Krughoff, a high price doesn’t guarantee better results. He says, “You don’t have to pay more to get more, and Checkbook found that the lower price vets actually rated higher on average than the higher price vets.”

Eighteen of 163 area veterinarian offices received Checkbook’s top rating for quality and price. One of them is Ark Animal Hospital in Chalfont, Bucks County. Tim Johnson at Ark says, “It’s a solid reminder that we’re doing what we should be doing; we’re doing it right.”

At Ark Animal Hospital, employees’ pets and the pets that come in for care are free to roam the halls. According to Johnson, “You know, it kind of takes the pressure off your own dog that it’s not such a scary place.”

Checkbook’s veterinarian survey finds that in addition to competent medical care, pet owners were also looking for:

– Convenience of location and hours
– Cleanliness
– Staff that showed concern and were friendly
– Vets that offered self-help and home care advice

Krughoff says, “First, choose a vet who talks openly with you about cost and your choices.”

Ark Animal Hospital seems to have mastered that.

“We kind of have a motto here of ‘treat everyone as you want to be treated,’” Johnson says.

To check out the full list of 163 veterinarian offices rated by Consumers’ Checkbook and its readers, and to see if your vet made the grade, visit: www.checkbook.org/cbs3/vets

For the next week, the ratings will be available for FREE only to CBS 3 viewers.

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