Animal hospital to assist humans

The DeBartolo family wants to build lodging for pet owners onsite.

By Jackie Ripley, Times Staff Writer
Published February 13, 2008

TAMPA - Frankie died of cancer last year. But the 12-year-old greyhound, beloved pet of sports and real estate magnate Eddie DeBartolo Jr., left behind more than happy memories.

Frankie also inspired a cluster of guest cottages now planned for the campus of Florida Veterinary Specialists.

The 24-hour animal hospital at 3000 Busch Lake Blvd. has a cancer center and 50 veterinarians on staff.

The complex, to be called Frankie's House, will be made available to clients traveling here from out of town who want to be nearby while their pets undergo treatment.

"There's a huge need," said Cari Saddler of Florida Veterinary Specialists. "People bring their pets from all over and sometimes they fly their pets in when they can't be here."

People bring their pets to the hospital for its specialized services, including CT scans, MRIs, laparoscopic surgery, rehabilitation, hydrotherapy and outpatient cardiograms.

"It's an issue of the equipment and specialization that is equal to you going to a specialist instead of a general practitioner yourself," Saddler said.

Overnight stays also might be necessary when pets come to Florida Veterinary Specialists for cancer treatment, protocols that can require two to three consecutive treatments and overnight hospitalizations.

DeBartolo's daughters, Lisa, Tiffanie and Nikki, donated $125,000 to the hospital, where Frankie was treated. The money will help build the six cottages.

They wanted a special tribute to Frankie, a decision that was prompted by their parent's upcoming 60th birthdays.

"They're hard to shop for, and as significant as a 60th birthday is, we wanted to do something special," Lisa DeBartolo said.

The hospital likens Frankie's House to Ronald McDonald houses, lodging for parents whose children are hospitalized.

"The cottages will have kitchens, a shower and computer hookups," Saddler said. "All the different things in a hotel room, but more affordable, and they won't have to go so far."

Saddler said the Florida Veterinary Specialists Charitable Foundation was renamed Frankie's Friends "to honor the bond between Frankie and Mr. DeBartolo.

The hospital is asking the county to rezone 3 adjacent acres for the housing. The petition goes before the county March 13.

Stays typically would be one to three nights. Saddler said it has not yet been determined what, if any, costs pet owners would face.

"I'm not sure what made Frankie so special," Lisa DeBartolo said. "But she was really a sweet, good natured dog and for some reason she was like my dad's favorite daughter."

Jackie Ripley can be reached at ripley@sptimes.com or 813 269-5308.

If you can help

To donate to Frankie's House, call (813) 933-8944 or write Frankie's Friends Charitable Foundation at 3000 Busch Lake Blvd., Tampa, FL 33614.