Local vets are struggling to keep up with the demand for their services during what has been a difficult pandemic made worse by staff issues, ineffective sidewalk models and the anger of some clients.
People who have sick animals on their hands are told that they will have to wait weeks, or even months, in some cases, before they can get an appointment. Those who cannot wait that long are left to try their luck in other countries.
“People feel helpless. They can’t show their pets and they don’t know what to do,” said Lake Isabella pet owner Stacy Mack, who got lucky on Thursday when she got the pet. a date for Castle, his 4 month old Italian. mastiff, at the All Critters Pet Hospital near the Rosedale Freeway in Bakersfield.
The situation has put a strain not only on animal owners and their animals, but also on staff in veterinary offices. Already in the grip of hiring difficulties before the pandemic, they have since lost employees for lack of child custody or quarantine mandates.
It’s a sign of the gravity of things that not one of the more than a dozen local veterinary offices and pet hospitals contacted by The Californian could take even a minute to speak. with a journalist. But the executive director of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association, Jennifer Hawkins, vouched for them.
“We’re just in survival mode,” she said of the current state of the industry.
José Duarte is one of the lucky ones. The Bakersfield resident noticed that his two Chihuahuas’ breathing seemed hoarse, possibly due to the cold and wet weather of recent times. For a week, he telephoned to Taft’s offices. One place left him on hold for two hours, and in the end he didn’t get an appointment.
Fortunately, he said, someone canceled an appointment Thursday morning at All Critters.
“I took it in the blink of an eye,” said Duarte.
Mack, the owner of the Lake Isabella pet who sat nearby with her mastiff, recalled a tragedy she experienced earlier this year. She hadn’t been able to get an appointment for one of her dogs and in February it ended up dying before she could find a vet who could make an appointment.
She couldn’t even have an autopsy afterwards as the waiting list was six months long and the dog was too heavy to be easily stored in a pet mortuary.
Chuck Nordstrom, deputy executive director of the Bakersfield SPCA on Gibson Street, said he intended sterilization and sterilization services to be booked in three months. The customers he hears about are doing everything they can to ensure their pets receive the care they need.
“It’s not usually that bad. It’s just very busy right now,” he said, adding that his usual advice to pet owners was to check with local government departments and shelters for animals.
Hawkins of the Veterinary Association attributed the problem to the initial stay-at-home orders at the start of the pandemic. Even as more people adopt “COVID pets” during the period of widespread isolation and loneliness, she said care for all but the most urgent cases is no longer available. This created a backlog of service which to some extent still persists.
Restrictions have eased over time, but the demand for veterinary services has only increased. Meanwhile, veterinary hospital staff began to shrink under the weight of pandemic pressures, disease and children returning from school.
Those who remained in the office found themselves facing unprecedented amounts of verbal abuse from angry clients, Hawkins said, leading some highly trained staff to step away from the field of veterinary medicine altogether.
“It was definitely, you know, a tough time,” she added.
Meanwhile, the curbside model in which customers had to wait in their cars until they were called has gone bad. Some pet owners lost their patience and left. Rare has become the case of an animal receiving prompt service without any kind of hitch or hassle.
Now people are looking for service everywhere, Hawkins said, and resolution seems further away than ever. But she noted a bright side.
“The good news is that people identify their pets as very important members of their family,” she said.
His advice to pet owners was to bring patients with them when they went to the vet in search of an appointment. Also, it’s best to call as early as possible, Hawkins said, and customers should make sure to bring a snack and a fully charged cell phone when they wait for service.
At All Critters Thursday, Allison Alvarez, of Bakersfield, sat in the waiting room with her 6-year-old chinchilla in Oregon. The animal had somehow had a string wrapped so tightly around its leg that it cut off the blood flow. Alvarez was concerned the limb might have to be amputated.
Alvarez expected a wait of several days or even a drive to Fresno or Los Angeles. But luckily for Oregon, there was a cancellation and he eventually got medical attention. By mid-morning, the little guy had a clean wound and a prescription for antibacterial medication.