LOS ANGELES - Animal hospitals and clinics across Los Angeles County are feeling overwhelmed.
Now, pet owners are forced to endure long wait times – spanning days and sometimes weeks – just to get an appointment.
Two weeks ago, Dusty, a four-month-old pup, was faced with a life-or-death situation.
"Dusty had been hit by a car and her owners could not afford veterinary care," said Kristen Stavola.
Stavola owns Rescues Rock, a rescue center in Laurel Canyon, says Dusty's owners couldn't get any help for their pup. So she tried, calling five different emergency rooms.
Each time, the family was told there were no vets available to take care of the situation.
Dusty died in Stavola's car.
It's a tragic story that keeps being repeated, according to many of those in rescues we’ve spoken with. FOX 11 contacted several animal hospitals.
Says VCA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marie Kerl, "I’ve been practicing more than 25 years. I’ve never seen a time like this where we have more people that want to have appointments and we have a personnel crisis… a staffing crisis."
Kerl says the crisis was exacerbated by the dramatic increase in pets adopted during the pandemic.
"There are simply not enough veterinarians and trained veterinary technicians to do the work," she said.
While VCA has added some 5,400 staffers to its 1,000 or so locations across the country, Kerl says that's not enough.
"Even before COVID started, we didn't have enough veterinarians," she said.
Here's a top for pet owners in case your fur babies encounter a health emergency:
- Establish a primary veterinarian early on
- Have pet insurance or a fund to deal with medical services
- Know, in advance, of several options of where you can get emergency care should it be needed