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Vermonters are having a hard time getting their dogs and cats spayed and neutered because of a shortage of veterinarians, compounded by the COVID pandemic, according to the executive director of the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association.
“There’s not only a shortage of veterinarians but a shortage of staff and technicians as well,” Linda Waite-Simpson said. “A lot of places have had to triage who gets into the clinic and who gets put on hold.”
Pets requiring spaying and neutering are often the ones put on hold, to take care of animals with broken bones and other serious conditions, Waite-Simpson said.
In addition, she said, the rise of the delta variant has caused most veterinary practices to return to curbside service, adding time and trouble to providing care, as pets are shuttled back and forth to their owners waiting in their cars.
Waite-Simpson said veterinarians can’t risk having to shut down their practices for days at a time because of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
One-day training hopes to address spay/neuter backlog
In response to the backlog, the Vermont Humane Federation is sponsoring a one-day training for veterinarians who want to improve their spay/neuter skills and speed.
The training will be held on Oct. 4 at Vermont Companion Animal Neutering in Middlesex, a clinic dedicated to “high-quality, high-volume, low-cost spaying and neutering,” according to the executive director.
“That’s all we do, we don’t do anything else,” Pamela Krausz said.
Krausz said the clinic, known as VT-CAN, performs more than 3,000 operations yearly and has spayed or neutered about 40,000 animals since it was established in August 2008. Spaying is the procedure performed on female animals to prevent pregnancies, while neutering generally refers to male animals.
Trying not to backslide on controlling pet populations
Despite being dedicated solely to spaying and neutering, VT-CAN has not been able to keep up with demand since the pandemic began, according to Krausz.
“We were only closed for eight weeks, but it’s just been busier than ever,” Krausz said.
So busy, she said, that VT-CAN is currently not scheduling dogs for spaying or neutering because the clinic is so busy taking care of cats.
“Our mission was to prevent pet overpopulation,” she said. “If you look at the species with the greatest issue in Vermont, it’s cats, versus dogs. We hope to begin scheduling dogs soon.”
Even for cats, VT-CAN is currently scheduling into November.
“It’s unusual for us,” Krausz said. “In the past we’ve been able to get animals (scheduled) in a couple of weeks.”
Krausz worries that if the restricted availability of spay/neuter continues, Vermont will face an overpopulation problem in its shelters.
“We haven’t euthanized for space for quite a while,” Krausz said. “If we fall behind on spay/neuter it could cause shelter intake to increase. We certainly don’t want to backslide.”
Contact Dan D’Ambrosio at 660-1841 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @DanDambrosioVT. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers.