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Animal hospital feeling effects of nationwide vet shortage

By David Caltabiano

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    PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK) — There is a nationwide shortage of veterinarians, and Valley animal hospitals are feeling the impact.

The issue is being magnified with more and more people becoming first-time pet owners during the pandemic. The business manager of Alta Vista Animal Hospital in Phoenix told Arizona’s Family that hiring doctors has been nearly impossible. Now, they’re down five vets, and employees say they’re overwhelmed. The vet shortage has created long wait times and concerns for new pet owners.

Alex Kroot says her four-legged friend “Pumpkin Pie” became her companion during the pandemic. She was tasked with fostering the boxer-mix and knew she couldn’t let her go. “I just couldn’t give her up; she’s too sweet,” said Kroot. “She’s been a lifesaver throughout the pandemic.”

But now, Kroot is having trouble trying to find her dog care, with some vet offices turning away new clients and others telling her it would be a two week wait. “Within those two weeks, Pumpkin chewed on a bottle of Tylenol,” said Kroot. “We had to take her to an emergency vet clinic and it was a 3-hour wait.”

The long wait time for new pet owners like Kroot is felt at Alta Vista Animal Hospital, a facility experiencing a shortage of vets. Some of them left after the first wave of lockdowns. Manager Dion Douglas says it’s tough to hire enough to keep the place staffed. “It’s extremely difficult,” said Douglas. “We offer competitive packages but unfortunately we are not getting as many bites as we’d like.”

In addition to understaffed facilities, more people than ever have been adopting animals, some of which need medical care. Dr. Tracie Feldman with Alta Vista said she’s never been busier and worries for pet owners who have to wait for care. “Its very hard because they’ll come to us and say, ‘This dog is really sick and we need to see it’ as I’m dealing with ten other patients. And it’s hard because I don’t want to say no but I can only do so much,” said Dr. Feldman.

Back to Kroot and her Pumpkin Pie. They finally got their appointment after waiting 14 days. Now, she has a message for other pet owners who could need one soon. “Plan ahead, call around and cross your fingers,” said Kroot.

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