Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia adds more specialists


Dr. Ethan Morris, of the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia, checks a pet during a recent visit.

The Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia is continuing to grow.

Started more than 30 years ago by doctors Ann Chiapella and Richard Bradley in Manassas, the practice will be under the sole ownership of Dr. Ethan Morris come Jan. 3.

The practice started with just Dr. Bradley as the surgeon and Dr. Chiapella as the internist, but has grown to become a 24-7 emergency center that employs more than 70 staff members.

He said it’s been a monumental task to take over from the two original doctors.

“It’s an incredibly overwhelming time for me, but it’s a good time for them too,” Morris said.

Receiving referrals from veterinarians and accepting owners, the response from the community that utilizes the referral center has been overwhelming at times.

Morris says that they see between four and six thousand pets a year, with 65 percent of that number coming from the emergency side.

“The response over the years has been incredibly positive,” Morris said. “That’s just a true reflection of us, as a hospital and us as our mission statement. The most important thing is the care of the animals and care of the clients. If you treat people well and treat their animals well, the rest just falls into place.”

Morris has been practicing as a surgeon at the referral center for 17 plus years of his 20-year career. He’s seen the facility from 2,500 square feet to the 10,000 square foot facility that services the Culpeper, Fauquier, Rappahannock and northern Virginia area today. It’s the only clinic of its kind in the Culpeper, Fauquier, Rappahannock area.

The attention to detail, compassion and client communication is what sets the referral center apart from others.

“That has always been the most important thing about our clinic,” Morris said.

Being a surgeon, Morris’ favorite aspect of the business is being able to help return a pet to its owner as good as new.

“For me, being a surgeon, it’s that immediate gratification,” Morris said. “There’s a problem, we fix it, they heal and the animal/owner bond is restored. We see the love and caring part of that is nurtured by that.”

The Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia subscribes to the latest technology, having added an MRI machine five years ago, making it much easier to diagnose back or knee problems pets may be having.

“That’s a really nice addition we can offer to our veterinarians but also to our clients for diagnosis for multiple problems,” Morris said.

The hallmark procedure Morris performs is a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy, a knee surgery that resets the bone and has revolutionized how surgeons look at addressing ACL injuries in dogs.

The internal medicine side is utilizing more laparoscopic medicine and the practice has added a behaviorist.

“Our behaviorist can help a pet with prescription medication that can adjust dogs levels of anxiety and can save many dogs’ lives,” Morris said.

Other specialists include an emergency and critical care specialist, Amy Butler, who will be starting in January. Morris also is looking to add a dermatologist and optomologist in the future.

“That’s the most important thing about our clinic is our staff,” Morris said. “They are the glue that keeps everything together. I’m blessed to have a wonderful staff that really reflects that personality.”

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Jeff Say is the editor for the Culpeper Times. He can be reached at