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Stateline vet clinics experience backlog during the COVID-19 pet boom

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 6:34 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Veterinary clinics were forced to change operations during the COVID-19 pandemic to try and cope with growing demand from their clients and some new clients, juggling a smaller staff and hefty workload.

This comes as the American Pet Products Association says that approximately 12.6 million households in the United States got a new pet during the pandemic. Some clinics were already struggling to meet the pre-pandemic demand so it’s a whole new ballgame for many.

The Auburn Animal Clinic on Rockford’s west side runs non-stop with a lot of new and regular four-legged patients. Owner Dr. Patricia Holm says, “The phones have been crazy. One thing with veterinary medicine kind of like any medical field, you’re not done until you’re done. Just because our doors say we close at six, we’re not out at six. It gets exhausting and I’m only one doctor.”

Holm’s clinic was forced to make changes, like allowing fewer people inside and increasing curbside service for certain appointments. She says, “We are backlogged. We are still trying to accept patients and still accept new appointments, we don’t try to turn things away unless we absolutely have to.”

With more people getting pets and more people returning to the office, animal experts worry the pets may become an afterthought or too much of a burden. Brett Frazier of Winnebago County Animal Services says, “What we’re hoping we don’t see though is that people now going back to work have to find different accommodations for their pets. Of course we’re here to help when something changes but our goal is that adoption is permanent and a home is forever.”

Vets say pet owners must be patient with animal doctors and office staff as they advocate for their furry friends. Frazier says, “What a tough year for everybody and especially our veterinarians. Preventative care is so important and we’ve put a lot of that off as a community with our pets over the last year.”

Patience is key, Holms says she is thankful for her clients and hopes more people will be understanding of what the veterinarians are going through. “Most of our clients are awesome. But the percentage of the population that is impatient and rude has worsened. It’s sad. People that just want it now, they want it their way and we’re here trying to do our best,” Holms says.

Veterinary positions are projected to grow 16 percent by 2029 the Bureau of Labor Statistics says. That’s about four times the average of most other occupations.

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