Pet ownership grew across the country and around Iowa during the pandemic and now it has become harder to find a veterinarian to treat the animals.

The State Director of the Humane Society of the U.S. Preston Moore says the increase in pet ownership came as Iowa struggled to recruit new veterinarians while simultaneously losing vets to other states. There is now a backlog of medical visits and he says there’s some evidence to suggest that the pandemic played a role as pet owners were choosing to put off bringing in their pets.

“Right now folks are struggling to get appointments to do even preventative care — to do the basic spay-neuter and vaccine care that shelters and rescues do prior to adoption,” Moore says. Veterinarian Jennifer Doll runs a high-volume spay and neuter clinic in Cedar Rapids. She does around 60 surgeries in a day, and the long hours are wearing on her. “My own pets don’t get to see me, it’s affected my family life,” she says, And I would like to have a little bit of that back.”

Iowa Humane Alliance executive director, Stacy Dykema, says she’s trying to hire two new veterinarians to fill in. They’re offering competitive wage sign on bonus and even offering to pay back some student loan debt — but aren’t getting any takers.
“I mean, we’ve reached out to people that we personally know to see you know what their long-term goals are, but none of them are willing to commit,” she says.

Doctor Doll recently took her first vacation in four years and the clinic was shut down. while she was gone. “And I had a wonderful time. But the three weeks before and these weeks after, it’s like we’re making up for it,” she says. She says she hopes it won’t be four years before her next vacation. Moore says vets fresh out of school carry approximately $183,000 in student loan debt. He also said more can be done to help them with their debt right out of school.

(By Zachary Oren Smith, Iowa Public Radio)

Radio Iowa