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National vet shortage impacting Kern County residents

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Posted at 10:10 PM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-02 18:34:47-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — To many residents, our four-legged friends, are considered family. But now the community is facing new challenges to get them the help they need, as a national vet shortage is impacting Kern County.

"With all the vet rules during the pandemic and now this shortage this has all just been a humongous mess,” said Robbie Miller with Strength of Shadow Dog Rescue.

Miller said that these are the reasons he’s had to turn down some dogs, and then slows down his rescue efforts.

Miller said that most vets are booked out one-to-three months on average right now with him even waiting up to 12 hours at an emergency hospital on some nights. In turn, putting the animal’s lives on the line.

“I’ll just be honest. Dogs are going to lose their life because of the vet shortage,” said Miller.

This harsh reality hit close to home for a long time Ridgecrest resident Alan Vannevel.

“Actually, we have a friend who basically had a twisted stomach. It happened after hours so they had to drive the dog to Lancaster and unfortunately the dog died on the drive there,” said Vannevel.

Vannevel said resources are stretched even thinner in the smaller communities with no after-hour emergency facilities anywhere close.

During the day, they also run into issues. Vandeveld said that there are only 3 practices in town.

“They cycle through a number of veterinarians. Every time we take one of our animals in one vet has left and they’re trying to hire a new one. Or there’s a small one-man practice here and then a third vet who comes down from Bishop California and they’re here once a week,” said Vannevel.

Julie Johnson with Bakersfield SPCA released a statement to 23ABC saying in part, “The vet shortage has been very tough all the way around. We have had an open position for 16 months with only one application.”

Aside from the shortage, Vicky Thrasher, a local licensed vet with Critters and Litters said the demand for help is going up.
“We’re performing 70-75 surgeries a day. We have vaccinated about 120-180 animals a day,” said Thrasher.

The non-profit offers low-cost spay and neutering services and Thrasher said much of this uptick in demand comes from the onset of the pandemic. With more people getting animals, Thrasher asking for compassion as they work through this.

“People are busy being frustrated. But just remember that the people you’re talking to are also human beings who are working as hard as they can to deliver services as much as they can across the board in the vet community,” said Thrasher.