September 12, 2001 11:00 pm

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

With the retirement of Dr. Phil Crabtree after 22 years treating local animals, there are some changes being made in the veterinary business in

La Grande and Island City.

Dr. Terrence McCoy and Sandy McCoy have purchased the Small Animal Clinic at 1807 Cove Ave. from Crabtree and hired Dr. Ursula Kelley to work there.

The McCoys continue to own the Animal Health Center at 10302 Wallowa Lake Highway.

Dr. Crabtree will do some relief work here, said Sandy McCoy from her office at the Cove Avenue clinic. But hes been in business for 23 years and and now wants to be in semi-retirement.

It was a good time to buy this business. We looked at the clientele of both and saw that there was very little competition between the two clinics, she said.

The Cove Avenue clinic deals mainly with small animals and mostly dogs and cats, she said, while the Animal Health Center has a mixed animal practice, about half large animals and half small animals, she said.

Kelley has been in this area for about a year, moving here from Olympia, Wash., with her husband, Ron, who teaches organic chemistry at Eastern Oregon University. She taught biology at EOU last year and is committed to continue teaching three days a week and offering a biology lab at night. Until she fulfills that commitment, Dr. McCoy will work at both clinics, Sandy McCoy said.

Dr. Kelley graduated from veterinary school at the University of California-Davis in 1991 and then moved around a lot, she said. They lived in North Dakota before moving to Spokane and then Olympia.

At Olympia, I worked nights doing emergency work, she said.

At Eastern, one of her students worked for Dr. McCoy and thats how she met him and learned the small animal clinic was for sale, Kelley said.

I met Dr. Crabtree and observed him for about a day and a half. I hope we can carry on his work.

She said her basic training was in small animal treatment, mostly dogs and cats. She said she would also treat pocket pets, such as birds and reptiles, adding that she has no special training for such small animals.

But its something I want to learn more about.

Kelley, who grew up in Sacramento, also wants to get more on the cutting edge of breeding of small animals. There is a lot of new work out there.

She will phase out of the teaching duties, and, with Dr. McCoy sharing the load, hopes to make the Cove Avenue clinic a 1 1/2 to 2 doctor clinic, she said.

Kelley comes very highly recommended, with good experience and education. Were lucky to be able to get someone of her calibre here in La Grande, Sandy McCoy said.

Besides the owners and doctors, there are six employees at the Small Animal Clinic and 16 at the Animal Health Center.

The Kelleys have two children, Bryan, 8, and Danielle, 13.