Vet clinics forced to reduce hours and services due to worker shortages

Veterinary clinics have had to reduce hours and services across Washington due to the shortage of veterinarians and licensed technicians, and some have had to shut down completely. 

With the increase of pet adoptions and fostering during the pandemic, the capacity at clinics has not been able to keep up.

"We have about a 30 percent increase in pet ownership and we have zero percent increase in veterinarians or veterinary staff," said Dr. Jacqueline Sehn of Mercy Vet in Mercer Island.

Currently, there are around 7,000 veterinarian job openings nationwide and there is an even higher demand for veterinary technicians. 

"To do any medical procedure, you need to have a licensed vet tech behind them to help monitor the anesthesia and the equipment in the room while the animal is under surgery," said Christopher Ross, CEO of Seattle Humane.

Ross explained how pet ownership has grown during the pandemic and pet owners working from home have become acutely aware of their pet’s potential health issues. It is these factors have contributed to more visits to the vet, according to Ross.

"Always show a little love and compassion when you’re talking to your vet or your emergency clinic if they say they can’t take you right away," said Ross. 

"Please know that those long waits are a byproduct of the lack of staff throughout the entire region."

Cathy Duchamp brought home a Bernese mountain dog, Gracie, during the pandemic. 

A few months ago, Duchamp said Gracie had become very sick and had to be taken to the emergency vet. She experienced the impacts of the veterinary staff shortage firsthand.

"We had to wait five hours in a parking lot to be seen, and multiple times we’ve had to wait in what would otherwise be considered an emergency situation," said Duchamp. 

"I appreciate the vets and the tech who are working. Dogs are basically kids with four legs for a lot of people and we want them to get the care they need."

Seattle Humane is advocating for people to pursue careers in veterinary medicine and is even introducing a tuition reimbursement program for staff and new hires who pursue training to become licensed veterinary technicians. 

You can also support local pet owners through Seattle Humane’s Pet Owner Assistance Fund

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