Veterinarians overwhelmed with pandemic pets

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CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — During the peak of the pandemic, many found themselves at home and in need of a companion. So, pet adoptions boomed, leaving veterinarians overwhelmed.

“It’s been a wild year, I’ve never ever been this busy as a veterinarian in all the years that I’ve practiced, it’s been just crazy,” said Dr. Debra Smart, owner and director of Centre Animal Hospital.

Dr. Smart says their appointment schedule has been full every day since last May, and veterinarians have been working overtime to keep up.

“All of the doctors here are working 12 to 14 hour days when they come in to work, when typically we might work 8 to 10 hours,” said Dr. Smart.

For the first time in Centre Animal Hospital’s 30 years of operations, they had to pause accepting new patients for about six months because they were so booked.

For safety, they’re currently doing curbside drop-off and pick-up.

“We’re going out to the car, our technicians are talking on the phone, we’re doing our exams in here, and then we’re talking on the phone when our exams are finished,” said Dr. Smart. “It just takes a little bit longer, the whole process is a little more cumbersome.”

To help the process, the doctors ask you let them know as soon as possible if you’re going to miss an appointment, so they can help another pet in it’s place.

Centre Animal Hospital was able to hire a new veterinarian in the spring, but Dr. Smart has seen a shortage of vets nationwide. More women have entered the field in the last 25 years, but COVID-19 prevented many from finishing their studies and certifications.

“When the pandemic started, these classes that are 80% women have lots of women who are moms and women who have responsibilities taking care of kids that used to be in school, so that has really changed the availability of veterinarians nationwide.” 

They said the challenges are all worth it, though, to keep their patients happy and healthy.

““It’s been a time that we’ve been able to sort of bond with our patients in a way that’s been very different, I mean we all do this because we love our patients and we love our families too,” said Dr. Smart.

She said the pandemic puppies are in good hands.

“These people that have got these pandemic puppies have been devoted to them,” said Dr. Smart. “They just love them, and the bond between them has been just as strong as any bond I’ve ever seen.”

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