Veterinarian shortage crisis in the Capital Region

CAPITAL REGION, N.Y.(NEWS10) A nationwide veterinarian shortage is causing some real concerns for pet lovers and their fur babies here in the Capital Region. NEWS10 talked with local veterinarians and breaks down the industry woes and looks at what you can do to help out your beloved pet family member stay healthy.

A massive shortage of veterinarians in the Capital Region now leaves pet owners without crucial care, turned away from specialized services, or waiting up to six hours in the emergency room.

“In our hospital alone, we are a bigger hospital, we have job postings for six veterinarians right now,” said Dr. Aaron Wey of Upstate Veterinary Specialties.

Dr. Wey of tells NEWS10 that capital region residents are feeling the loss even more as the crisis is forcing clinics to shut their doors.

‘And our immediate area, our referral area, [clinics] have closed in the past 2 years citing staffing shortages as the main reason that they couldn’t stay open,” said Wey.

The doctor tells NEWS10 that a lack of interest in the field, less trained personnel and the debt load from education is crippling the industry. 

Gail Hughe with the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society seeing problems of their own as the rise in pandemic related adoptions is now resulting in a surge of pets returning to shelters.

“During the pandemic more people acquired pets, so more people are looking for veterinary care. They are having a hard time finding it because of the veterinary shortage. Between that and increasing prices it has become difficult for people to keep their pets. We are inundated with calls from people looking for help because they either cannot get into their own veterinarian, or they are having trouble getting established with a veterinarian for their new pet. 

It is a tough situation, and we are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of pets coming into the shelter. Those pets are now more likely to be under-vaccinated with unrelated medical conditions, which puts them at greater risk in a shelter environment. They’re also less likely to be spayed or neutered. All of this puts a strain on shelter resources at a time we, too, are short on veterinarians. 

This area is in dire need of affordable and accessible veterinary care. Shelters cannot fill that gap because they too are short on veterinary help and NYS law prohibits shelter vets from diagnosing or treating owned pets,” said Hughe.

Yet, not all is lost and there is help out there. Dr. Wey tells NEWS10 they may turn have new clients away but do offer support and alternatives.

“[They can] call and speak to a primary care vet. I would ask if they have any resources they could provide for other clinics locally or in their immediate area that they know are taking new clients,” said Wey.

However, if you can’t make it to a brick-and-mortar veterinarian a local vet. Steve Schnee is getting set to hit the road with his mobile practice. Schnee has seen firsthand the effects the shortage is causing local pet owners.

“I’m sympathetic to that. I know there is only so many cases any veterinarian can do in a day, whether it’s an emergency or not,” said Schnee.

Not only is the mobile service a convenience and set to launch in February, Schnee says he believes he can serve the physical care and the mental health and stress of both for his furry friends and their pet parents.

“The idea that if I could see them in an environment that’s more comfortable for them it might be better for everybody you know the pets maybe would get an easier vet visit out of it,” said Schnee.