SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Veterinary clinics are filling up with patients this year as a result of an increased demand for pet care.
Several clinics across the South Coast have had to stop taking new clients after reaching their limits.
“There are times where we have to turn away clients because our demand is so great,” said Devon Edwards-Cannon, Hospital Manager at White’s Pet Hospital in Santa Barbara, which is currently taking new clients but on a limited basis.
Edwards-Cannon believes the spike in demand is a result of more pet adoptions this year, as well as people noticing more health issues with their pets or having more time to address them.
Adhering to COVID-19 safety guidelines, clinics across the area are now taking pets inside without their owners present. Edwards-Cannon says she looks forward to the day when they can be welcomed back inside while their pets are receiving treatment.
“Our phone is busier than ever because we’re not inviting clients into the building, which is sad for us and the clients, because they’re not with their pets which we would obviously prefer,” she said.
White's Pet Hospital has also had to shuffle its staff during the pandemic and reconfigure its building to create a "walk-up" front window for clients to use to pick up prescriptions or exchange information.
Busy clinics and the lack of availability for urgent care have resulted in busy emergency departments for animals as well. A nearby emergency clinic had roughly an eight-hour wait for animals on Saturday.
The Santa Barbara Humane Society has seen increased calls for care with veterinary clinics limiting new patients.
The Santa Barbara campus focuses on vaccines and routine surgeries, but even those have been booked far more frequently this year.
"Normally we're able to keep up with spays and neuters, the vaccines, everything that needs to happen at our Santa Barbara location within a week or two," said Katie Marrie, the Humane Society's Vice President of Veterinary Medicine. "Sometimes even the next day we're able to book people. Now we're usually a month to sometimes two months on surgeries and a few weeks out on vaccinations."
Marrie says COVID-19 guidelines, like people remaining in their cars instead of coming into the clinic, have "doubled or tripled" the time the staff takes with an animal.
The Santa Maria location takes care of wellness issues, like skin and ear problems and dental cleanings. Marrie says not only has the demand been high for those services, but many people also need financial assistance to get their pets the treatment they need.
The Humane Society is seeking grants and donations to help pay for those treatments. You can learn more or donate to the cause on the Humane Society's website.
“During this time when people are having difficulty paying for things, we want to be able to assist them so that an animal is not suffering,” Marrie said. “With these type of medical funds we can help supplement something like that. So the pet gets to stay with them and be in their home."