FILE – A dog lays down on a front porch in Toronto Saturday, July 6, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

FILE – A dog lays down on a front porch in Toronto Saturday, July 6, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

Too many new pet owners, not enough vets make getting animal care a problem

There are about 10,000 veterinarians in Canada

Dr. Liz Ruelle says it was a difficult decision to close her veterinary practice to first-time patients after being swamped with requests by new pet owners who turned to animal companionship during the pandemic.

For Ruelle, who operates the Wild Rose Cat Clinic in Calgary, everything takes two to three times longer with COVID-19 safety protocols, so providing timely medical attention to animals can be challenging.

She’s six months behind on regular checkups and so decided last October to refer new furry patients to emergency clinics.

“Everyone was running out and getting pets … and we’re now facing backlogs of annual exams, because we weren’t doing them for months,” Ruelle said.

“I have a hard time saying no to people. It’s gut-wrenching for us. When we’re saying no, it’s because we physically can’t.”

Humane Canada says 78,000 cats and 28,000 dogs were in shelters across Canada in 2019. Sixty-five per cent of the felines and 73 per cent of dogs were either adopted or reclaimed by their owners.

Numbers for last year aren’t yet available, but shelters across the country say demand has been brisk, although the number of cats and dogs available has dropped.

“Our adoptions have thankfully stayed steady throughout the pandemic and haven’t seen a marked increase in animal returns,” said Jessica Bohrson from the Calgary Humane Society.

“With so many folks now working from home, they’ve been able to give their new pets a great deal of attention.”

There are about 10,000 veterinarians in Canada. Dr. Enid Stiles,president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association,said that’s too few vets for the number of pets.

The greatest shortfall is in British Columbia, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.

“It’s become a triage of what’s most important. Certainly these new pets have thrown a wrench into things, because in Canada we already have a very big shortage of veterinarians,” said Stiles, who shut down her Montreal clinic to new patients in December.

“My clinic said we would never do that, but … we ended up having to stop taking any new patients because we’re burning out. We had to put the brakes on and that’s hard because where are those pets going to go?

“The irony is they’re going to end up being pushed out to more rural vets, who may still have some ability to see these patients, but now they’re having to travel great distances in a pandemic just to get veterinary care.”

Lack of attention for newer patients has led to many veterinarians being subjected to verbal abuse from angry pet owners, Stiles added.

“People get frustrated and they’re very emotional when dealing with pets. We understand, but certainly with the pandemic it’s even more of a struggle,” she said.

“People’s fuses are short.”

The Toronto Humane Society switched to virtual adoptions last spring. The organization has fewer animals available than usual because it isn’t allowed to bring in any from the United States with the border closed.

Hannah Sotropa said the society has received more than 11,000 applications for adoption since the pandemic began.

“Definitely the interest has certainly increased. We’re not seeing an increase in adoptions per se largely due to the fact we have had fewer animals,” she said.

READ MORE: Bella, Charlie top lists of most popular 2020 dog names in Canada

The Toronto Humane Society has its own public veterinary service clinic which vaccinates, spays and neuters pets. It also has a dental suite.

“There’s going to be backlogs. What’s really important is we find ways to make veterinary care more accessible, so we can prevent animals ending up in our shelters simply due to affordability or lack of availability to basic, veterinary care,” Sotropa said.

“It’s important for people to know that even if they are an adopter, they can still come for help if they need it.”

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusPets

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tree clearing and grubbing will take place March 8 for the French Creek Water Pollution Control Centre upgrade and expansion project. (PQB News file photo)
Work scheduled for March 8 as part of $48.5M French Creek Pollution Control Centre expansion project

Resident questions Regional District of Nanaimo regarding lack of activity to date

Construction of a roundabout in Qualicum Beach has started. (Town of Qualicum Beach photo)
Construction of new roundabout in Qualicum Beach has begun

Traffic detours in effect to keep workers safe

A man receives his COVID-19 vaccine. (CP file photo)
COVID-19: Vaccination site in Parksville Community Centre to start March 15

Approximately 60,000 Parksville Qualicum Beach residents to be vaccinated

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

The Regional District of Nanaimo’s board is forwarding a motion on illegal dumping to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities’ upcoming annual general meeting. (Kane Blake photo)
Island communities asked to join forces in seeking help fighting illegal dumping

RDN resolution to be forwarded to Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends deadline for tourism, small business COVID-19 grants

Business owners expect months more of lost revenues

Protestors against old growth logging gather in front of the courthouse in Victoria on Thursday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Protesters gather at Victoria courthouse to oppose Port Renfrew logging

Logging company seeks injunction to remove blockades near its Port Renfrew operation

Mid day at the Vancouver Port Intersection blockade on March 3, organized by the Braided Warriors. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
Anti-pipeline blockade at Vancouver intersection broken up by police

Demonstraters were demanding the release of a fellow anti-TMX protester

One person is dead after a camper van caught fire Thursday morning in Victoria's Beacon Hill Park. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
One person dead after vehicle fire in Victoria park

Investigation into Beacon Hill Park death in early stages

(Government of B.C.)
Chelsea Harry was last seen Feb. 21. Photo via Comox Valley RCMP
Vancouver Island RCMP seeking help locating a missing woman

Missing person last seen in Courtenay on Feb. 21

Most Read