Monroe Veterinary Clinic was established in 1949 by Taylor A. Bragg, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, following his graduation from Ohio State University. A native Georgian, Dr. Bragg went to Ohio to study veterinary medicine following his military service during World War II. Upon returning to Georgia, he opened his practice in a small building on South Broad Street in Monroe. He established Monroe Veterinary Clinic with $2000, paying $15 per month for rent.
In 1950, a teenager named Donald Phillips came to work for Dr. Bragg as a veterinary assistant. He was Dr. Bragg’s “right-hand man” throughout Dr. Bragg’s career. Don worked at the Clinic for more than 50 years. In addition to his grooming skills and medical knowledge, Mr. Don could “fix most anything.” Although he officially retired, he still comes by to help with small projects and visit with our staff!
In 1951, Robert Wilson Robison, DVM, came to work at Monroe Veterinary Clinic, following his graduation from the University of Georgia. He was a member of the second graduating class of veterinarians at UGA. He and Dr. Bragg formed a partnership that lasted from 1952 until Dr. Robison’s retirement in 1980. At the time of Dr. Robison’s retirement, their veterinary partnership was the longest active veterinary partnership in Georgia.
Walton County was an agricultural, rural county. In 1950, there were 1,456 farms with milk cows. Four hundred and forty-three of those farms sold milk and milk products. The veterinarian’s day frequently began at 3:30 or 4 in the morning, when the farmer checked his cows before milking and found that he needed the vet to take care of a sick cow.
Most of the doctor’s time was spent on farm calls taking care of dairy cattle, beef cattle, pigs, mules, and horses. Family pets were often taken care of at the farm, but there were, of course, non-farm families who had dogs and cats.
There were few veterinarians in neighboring counties during the early years of the Clinic, and the veterinarians spent a lot of time on the road, visiting farms in the five-county area.
Rabies was a very real danger and a human health problem in the 1940’s and 50’s. Great public efforts were made to vaccinate animals to prevent the spread of rabies. To protect the public, routine testing was done on dairy herds as well as beef cattle for other health issues such as brucellosis. Spring was an especially busy season for the veterinarians as their assistance was needed with herd care and yearly vaccinations, as well as birthing difficulties.
Dr. Bragg and Dr. Robison moved the location of Monroe Veterinary Clinic to 1016 East Spring Street in 1962. The Clinic was located on the “edge of town.” The original building was 1200 square feet and is now the left wing of the current clinic building.
As their practice grew, an associate veterinarian was needed to assist Dr. Bragg and Dr. Robison and that established a trend that continues today. Numerous area veterinarians count Monroe Veterinary Clinic as their first place of employment following graduation from Veterinary School. Dr. Larry White came to work at the Clinic in 1973, before leaving to open his own practice. He was followed by Dr. Thomas Henry Wall in 1974. Dr. Wall become Dr. Bragg’s partner in 1981, following Dr. Robison’s retirement.
Dr. Joey Gross, another UGA graduate, joined the practice in 1985 after practicing in Perry, Georgia. Dr. Bragg retired from Monroe Veterinary Clinic in 1995. At the time of his retirement, he was the oldest practicing veterinarian in the state. Dr. Gross became Dr. Wall’s partner after Dr. Bragg’s retirement in 1995.
Veterinary medicine and the needs of their patients and clients have changed drastically since 1949. By 2002, there were only three farms with milk cows in Walton County. According to the 1950 census, there were 2734 mules in the county. By 2007, there were only 142 mules!
With fewer families with farm animals, more of the clinic’s patients were family pets.
To meet the needs of a changing clientele, the original Clinic building was remodeled and expanded in 1989. This increased their space by 3200 square feet, providing a larger area for examination rooms, a surgery suite, modern diagnostic equipment, etc. These changes were necessary to transition from a mixed animal practice to one focusing on companion animal medicine and surgery.
Cosmetic changes were made to the clinic in addition to the much-needed space. Laura Gross created murals in the kennel area of the clinic to warm the appearance of that space. Unlike many clinics, our clinic is located several acres of land. A walking path was added as a part of our new landscape design. Dogs who are boarding at the Clinic and dogs who are ambulatory, go for a walks two times a day. Benches were also added for clients who want to walk their pets at the clinic and/or wait for their appointments or test results.
To meet the needs of their clients in several counties, Dr. Wall and Dr. Gross opened the Mars Hill Animal Hospital in Oconee County in 1998. Dr. Wall remained as the senior veterinarian in Monroe, while Dr. Gross became the senior veterinarian at Mars Hill.
One of the goals of our Veterinary Clinics has been to provide patients with the most up-to-date medical care. We cooperate with the University of Georgia, utilizing their resources for continuing education, as well as providing educational opportunities for their students. Both Monroe Veterinary Clinic and Mars Hill Animal Hospital serve as extern sites and provide guidance for veterinary students and veterinary tech students from the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, Gwinnett Technical College, and Athens Technical College.
Many veterinary students and veterinary technical students have completed their internship programs at our clinics. We have also provided employment for veterinary students while they attended UGA. This provides them practical experience with animal care as well as helping them pay for the high costs associated with veterinary training.
A number of veterinarians who now practice in the Walton County area began their careers at Monroe Veterinary Clinic. Dr. April Mitchell worked at our Clinic while she attended UGA. Dr. Mitchell grew up helping Dr. Bragg take care of the Tennessee Walking Horses and pets that belonged to her family. Dr. Bragg was so proud (and not surprised) when Dr. Mitchell chose Veterinary Medicine as her profession!
Dr. Mitchell worked with Dr. Wall and Dr. Gross during her internship program while she was a student at UGA. Many Walton County high school students have been employed as animal care assistants before beginning their college education. These early experiences were a good foundation for them, and many of them went on to pursue human health care or animal-related careers.
Community involvement has been important to the staff since the Clinic’s inception. The founding partners, as well as Dr. Wall and Dr. Gross, have been active in support of local schools, youth organizations such as 4-H, FFA, Walton County Horse Shows, Boy Scouts of America and area Livestock Shows.
The doctors are active in both professional veterinary organizations and civic organizations. Dr. Bragg and Dr. Wall both served as Walton County’s veterinary advisors, assisting and advising Walton County’s Animal Control Program.
In 2011, Dr. Wall and two of the staff members participated in Disaster Training pertaining to Walton County’s animal and pet population.
On March 1, 2011, Dr. April Mitchell became the owner of Monroe Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Wall and Dr. Gross were delighted to have Dr. Mitchell as the new owner, which continues the tradition of the new owner working in the practice and knowing the clients and their families. Dr. Wall will continue to practice at the Clinic.
Our doctors and staff have received recognition from numerous community clubs and organizations for their contributions to the community and state. In 2011, our clinic and staff was again honored by the readers of the Walton Tribune’s Reader’s Choice Awards. We were selected as Best Animal Hospital, Best Veterinarian and Best Secretary!
We appreciate the 60+ years of support that we have received from our clients, friends and the community as we strive to provide excellent medical care for pets in our area.