clear the shelters

Animals Backlogged at Shelters Due to Veterinarian Shortage

If you've been thinking about adopting a pet, the need has never been greater.

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Adopt a pet, if you can through NBC4’s Clear the Shelters Campaign. Angie Crouch reports for the NBC4 News on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021.

If you've tried to get your pet in to see a veterinarian recently, you know it can take weeks to get an appointment due to the nationwide shortage of vets.

Part of the reason for that shortage is that a high number of people adopted animals during the pandemic, but it's also partially because vets and vet techs have a high rate of burnout.

Many veterinarians make less than half the amount doctors are paid, despite the high cost of training.

"The liability is extremely high when you come out as a licensed vet," said Ashlee Sprague, the Vice President of the Board of Directors for Priceless Pets. "The work is extremely hard, the hours are long, the pay is not amazing."

The vet shortage leads to overcrowding at shelters, because animals can't be adopted until they're spayed or neutered.

"You’re looking at about six to eight weeks lead time for a regular exam for your personal vet, let alone a shelter animal," said Shelley Fonglesong, the Vice President of the Board of Directors at the Upland Animal Shelter.

At Priceless Pets in Chino Hills, the one full-time vet has a hard time keeping up with demand.

"It’s very frustrating," Sprague said. "We’re already a lower cost clinic, so we are a lot of people’s last resort prior to surrendering pets to the shelter for medical issues."

Some pet owners who aren't able to find low cost vet services are resorting to giving up their animals.

"So they will chose the cheaper alternative which unfortunately is euthanizing, or turn it into a shelter," Sprague said. "They’ll let it loose as a stray... Unfortunately that just increases the amount of intake at the shelters and more pets are being euthanized. It’s a big issue."

She added that pet owners can help by keeping their animals healthy with diet and exercise, and by not clogging up vet clinics with minor issues.

"Don’t come for nail trims or ear cleanings, things that can be taken care of elsewhere," Sprague said.

If you don't mind waiting a few weeks for a shelter animal to get spayed or neutered, you can help ease the burden at shelters by adopting through the Clear the Shelters campaign from NBCLA and Telemundo, running through Sept. 19. And if you can't adopt, consider donating to your local shelter.