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Sault veterinarians not taking new patients; border closure has created pet care crisis, local pet owner says

Sault vets swamped taking care of existing patients
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Prior to the Canada-U.S. border closure due to COVID-19 restrictions, many Sault and area residents, such as Tressa Van Midde, took their pets to Sault, Mich. for veterinary care.

That, of course, will no longer be possible for the foreseeable future.

And, it appears that pet owners inconvenienced by the border closure, wishing to take their animals to a Sault, Ont. veterinarian, will be in for a long wait.

“They will not take any new clients,” Van Midde said, speaking to SooToday.

“They’re only taking on their original clients who’ve gotten another pet...when all this COVID stuff happened most of the vet offices were closed or just taking emergencies, so with things opening they’re completely swamped and trying to catch up just with the pets they already had.”  

“They’re totally backlogged, and even when they get caught up they still won’t be able to accept new clients. I was told they’re backed up probably until the fall,” Van Midde said.

“Now you’ve also got a lot of people who got new pets while they were in quarantine, because it’s a great time to train a new animal with months off work while at home, but the people who already had animals in with a vet were able to get those pets in to see the same vet, but people who don’t have vets aren’t able to get their new pets spayed or neutered.”

“You’ve got hundreds of animals that went across the river for veterinary care that have nobody now. There are no rabies shots happening, no vaccines happening, it’s pretty serious,” said Van Midde, an owner of two cats and a dog.

Sault pet owners may contact the veterinarian on call for emergencies at (705) 946-6001, but Van Midde said “you may not get seen for hours, three or four hours it might take while your dog’s in distress.”

Van Midde said she has also tried contacting veterinarians in communities such as Iron Bridge and Desbarats for help.

“They’re saying ‘we’re swamped, we cannot take new people, you can try Elliot Lake.’”

That’s a long way to drive if your dog is sick, Van Midde said.

“This really is a crisis...we definitely need help (such as) mobile clinics, or vet techs and video chat. I’m concerned, I’m upset I can’t get in to see a vet for my loving family pets and there’s not much I can do about it, but there are hundreds of people in the same boat.”

“At the beginning of COVID (and the border closure)...we were actually taking on new clients up until a month ago, but we just had to put a hold on it for a while because we have only two doctors here and we were having a really hard time trying to fit everything in. We’re doing some catching up,” said a spokesperson for Animal Hospital, located at 12 Tilley Rd.

“We’re not ‘not taking new clients’ forever. It’s just for a couple of months,” the spokesperson said.

Animal Hospital is currently holding 15-minute appointments from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an average of about five drop offs a day.

“We’ve had a lot of phone calls. For our clinic, we have not been taking new clients for about a year and a half. One of our doctors had to retire unexpectedly. We had enough patients for four doctors and now we only have three, but we do have another doctor who’s starting to do a little bit part time...definitely COVID has set us back and we are behind on some vaccines as well,” said a spokesperson for Black Road Veterinary Services.

Officials from Northland Animal Hospital, Animal Health Clinic, Ableson Veterinary Services and Great Lakes Animal Hospital were not available for comment.