Nationwide veterinarian shortage impacts Huntsville animal clinic

WAFF 48's Claudia Peppenhorst reporting
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 10:35 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2023 at 10:23 AM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - When you take a trip to the vet with your cat or dog, the last thing you want is to be turned away. That is the reality for some due to the nationwide veterinarian shortage.

“We have had quite a time with regular staffing as well as veterinary staffing,” said Dr. Susan Muller, owner of the Animal Care Clinic and Hospital.

Her clinic is not the only one experiencing staffing issues and the shortage of vets is causing many animal clinics and shelters problems. Low staff often leads to pet owners having a prolonged waiting time or simply being turned away.

“Veterinarians get pressed for time because they don’t have the staff to help them see the number of patients that they normally might,” said Dr. Brad Harris, a spokesperson for the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association. “It’s very challenging and frustrating and sometimes heartbreaking when your pet’s emergency can’t be met immediately.”

Harris said there are several factors contributing to the shortage: The pandemic, vet school graduation numbers, salary and the overall rigorous schedule.

Dr. Muller said she has seen many vets leave the business due to better pay in other medical career fields.

“Veterinarians characteristically in the medical field have not made financially as much as medical doctors or specialists, so that’s another problem with veterinary medicine,” Muller said.

Muller’s clinic is currently staffed with five veterinarians, however, she said they typically have six. She said they have been searching for a while, but have not been able to lock down a new staff member.

According to Dr. Harris, many students may leave the career field before they even start, due to the challenging material.

“Veterinary medicine is challenging because it’s not just one species, it’s many species,” Harris said.

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