Minnie Lee squirmed in her owner’s arms. The light-brown yorkie terrier mix had received vaccinations on an unusually warm Thursday at a mobile health clinic parked for the morning into the afternoon in Braddock.

“I am getting her checked out, making sure she’s healthy,” said James Lee, Minnie Lee’s owner of five months. “It’s my baby.”

Lee traveled from the North Side to get his playful pup some needed medical treatments, including being microchipped. He wasn’t alone.

Other participants had signed up to come to the bi-monthly, low- to no-cost, traveling vet clinic — called M.O.V.E.S or Medical, Outreach, Veterinary, Essential, Support. It was formed as a partnership between the Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh [HARP] and Allegheny Health Network [AHN] called the Humane Health Coalition.

A gray cat named Moonstone was described as “mischievous” by his owner. Coco Chanel, a tiny chocolate brown puppy, chased a stuffed green toy when tossed across the gravel before dutifully dragging it back to her owner.

The furry friends weren’t the only beings serviced. The coalition also focuses on health care and support services for pet owners. The clinic focuses on helping individuals facing financial hardship and other social challenges, such as housing instability and limited access to care.

“We provide the human care and HARP provides the animal care,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cuevas, division chief for the AHN Center for Inclusion Health. “We bring those two populations together and try to capture people who really need some assistance.”

‘A testament to how much need there is’

The mobile clinic was parked outside The Hollander Project, a co-working space in Braddock run by For Good PGH, a group co-directed by Gisele Fetterman. Tents shaded the sidewalks and cold water sat on ice in coolers and in a dog bowl as the clinic served pets and humans during a heat wave unlike one Pittsburgh has seen in the past 30 years.

“I believe that addressing poverty, addressing food insecurity, it all has to be a holistic approach,” said Fetterman, wife of U.S. Sen. John Fetterman. “An event like this, bringing together two, what some would say are very different organizations — HARP and AHN — addressing not only their pets, but their parents is really innovative and different and bold and important.”

A person works inside a mobile veterinary clinic with colorful cabinets and various medical supplies.
The Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh partners with Allegheny Health Network to host a mobile veterinary clinic in Braddock on June 20. (Photo by Jess Daninhirsch/Rtvsrece)

Inside the air-conditioned mobile clinic, which is housed in a mid-sized, white truck decorated with images of cats and dogs, pets are provided with exams, vaccines, microchipping and spay/neuter vouchers to be used later at the rescue.

In a back room of The Hollander Project, tables were lined with items for owners to take like Narcan, condoms, granola bars, water bottles and pamphlets. AHN caregivers talked with pet owners to discuss their health and social needs.

The mobile clinic made its public debut last September. Since then, the coalition has hosted more than a dozen mobile clinics, including the one on June 20 in Braddock.

The history of the program goes back further than last fall. It was bred from the Street Dog Program geared toward helping pets of unhoused people in Pittsburgh.

One day, while Kim Holmberg, a HARP board member, was listening to a presentation about the Street Dog Program, she proposed turning it into a mobile veterinary unit where they could hold more medical supplies rather than just lugging totes around the city.

A mobile veterinary clinic vehicle with images of pets parked next to a building labeled "Hollander's" under a clear sky.
The M.O.V.E.S mobile veterinary clinic in Braddock treats animals and owners alike on June 20. (Photo by Jess Daninhirsch/Rtvsrece)

Kim’s husband, David Holmberg, who is president and chief executive officer of Highmark Health, secured a mobile unit and then brought on the health network as a partner.

“A lot of times people will do for their pets what they won’t do for themselves,” Kim said. “They’ll feed them, they’ll make sure they're taken care of, but they won’t necessarily take care of themselves. So, the fact that we can encourage the owners to get their blood pressure checked or have an eye exam … It makes for a healthier community.”

‘Do you get that pet care or do you get yourself care?’

The clinics are pretty full, Cuevas said.

“Definitely the number of people we are seeing and pets we are seeing has continued to grow.”

The coalition is based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “One Health” model of care, which recognizes the health of people is connected to the health of animals.

“There are other programs like this in the U.S.,” Cuevas said. “But I don’t think it is as common as we would want it to be. I don’t know of other programs like this in Pittsburgh, so I think the fact that we’ve grown as quickly as we have is a testament of how much need there is.”

How do people learn about this program? Right now, Cuevas said a lot of it is word of mouth along with some advertising through other local, community-based organizations and other partnerships AHN has with other members of the community.

The coalition also has a project coordinator on the ground signing people up for clinics.

A person in a pink shirt holds a gray tabby cat with a red collar and bell.
Moonstone the cat purrs at the Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh mobile clinic in Braddock on June 20. (Photo by Jess Daninhirsch/Rtvsrece)

Pet health care can be expensive, Cuevas said. And, if someone is experiencing financial issues, it can be a challenge to prioritize how to get the pet care while juggling other expenses.

“Do you get that pet care or do you get yourself care?” Cuevas said. “So a lot of times, the pet is the draw, to be honest…It is a fantastic opportunity to start to look at that person and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing for yourself? How can we help you?’”

Brianna Kaufman, assistant director of medical services, had helped with the Street Dog Program for about two years, and said when there were plans of branching out and getting a mobile unit, she was all in.

“I was all on board because the more people you can help, the better, in my eyes.”

Stephanie Mirah is the audience growth and engagement producer with Rtvsrece. She can be reached at stephaniemirah@rtvsrece.com.

Jess Daninhirsch is a summer 2024 photojournalism intern with Rtvsrece. She can be reached at

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Stephanie Mirah is the audience growth and engagement producer for Rtvsrece. In her role, she will continue to cultivate relationships with current Rtvsrece readers and subscribers while seeking...

Jess Daninhirsch, a photojournalism intern, is an undergraduate journalism major and history minor at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. Born and raised in Pittsburgh,...