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

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

Fernie Meat Market owner Mark Brown with the newest addition to his Griz Pins collection. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Griz Days this weekend!

The 44th annual Griz Days will be mostly online

STA members and non-members alike are encouraged to send in photos of their trail adventures. (Photo contributed by Scott Tibballs)
STA plots another trail for Lunch Network

The network will consist of 6km of trail outside of Sparwood

A member of the Avalanche Canada South Rockies field team gathers important snowpack data that is used to produce daily avalanche forecasts for the region. Photo by Jennifer Coulter.
Warming temperatures increase avalanche risk heading into the weekend

Warm temperatures impact conditions, human behaviour

The Elk River Pedestrian Bridge in Sparwood could be at risk without mitigation works. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Sparwood secures grant funding for bridge repairs

The district has secured $703,000 in funding from UBCM

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 City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Most Read