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Local veterinarians backlogged amid pandemic pet boom

Main Street Small Animal Hospital

The pandemic has sparked a massive boost in pet adoptions, and now local veterinarians are trying to keep up with the demand for appointments.

Since the early days of the start of the pandemic, it’s been a bustling scene at Main Street Small Animal Hospital in Templeton — with phones ringing off the hook and clients waiting outside for an appointment.

“Oh man, we are busy!" said Dr. Alex Gomes. "For the first hour or two hours of our day, it’s controlled chaos for sure.”

Dr. Alex Gomes said it’s not just his clinic seeing this amount of traffic.

“We are seeing this throughout veterinary medicine not just on the Central Coast," Gomes said. "But everywhere.”

Gomes said the rise in demand for veterinary services stems from the drastic increase in pet adoptions throughout the pandemic, and the rise in inquiries about pet care, since many people are working from home with their pets by their side.

“So they are seeing little things here and there a little bit more than they used to," Gomes said. "Or they have a little bit more time by working at home to be able to go to the clinic.”

The demand for pet services has doubled the amount of clients for Gomes' clinic, which has led to longer wait times for client appointments.

“We start to see not only frustrated clients, but clients that start to lash out," Gomes said. "Clients that are sitting in the parking lot posting on facebook attacking the clinic, attacking specific veterinarians — and it's unfortunate.”

Gomes said not only is there more pet care demand, veterinarian clinics nationwide are facing backlogs in getting medicine and food products due to the pandemic supply chain issues. On top of that, there is also a veterinarian worker shortage adding to the problem.

So, the longer wait times at local animal hospitals don't look to be alleviating anytime soon.

“We are not in it to make money," Gomes said. "There is only one reason we are here, and that's to help animals. So understanding that the veterinarians in the community are just asking for a little bit of compassion and a little bit of patience and understanding that we are doing the best we can.”

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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