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With demand higher than ever, Hawaii veterinarians are being pushed to the brink

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 7:31 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 5, 2021 at 2:52 PM HST
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KAHULUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Hawaii veterinarian says animal hospitals are overwhelmed by high demand, putting significant strain on staff.

They’re asking the community for compassion and patience.

“I’ve euthanized 16 pets in 13 days, and I had to walk away for a bit,” said Dr. Jenna Wallace.

Wallace wanted to be a veterinarian since she was a little girl. She now provides relief to other veterinarians around Hawaii so they can have some time off.

“We may be booked out but it’s not because we don’t want to see your pet. It’s because we physically can’t see 30 to 40 patients a day and provide good care at the same time,” Wallace said.

A 2019 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that female veterinarians are up to 3 1/2 times more likely to commit suicide than the average person.

Wallace said the pressure has only gotten worse since the start of the pandemic.

“Since COVID hit, we’ve had about 12.5 million more pets in the US. But we don’t have any more vets, nor do we have vet techs,” she said. “In 2020, we lost three veterinarian technicians and two veterinarians in one week.”

Wallace said as an aspiring veterinarian, she wasn’t aware of the backlash that came with the job.

“Here in Hawaii … I had a colleague that was threatened, and her staff threatened, that they were going to be shot with a gun,” she said. “I have had my licensed threatened.”

She said many of veterinarians are often in debt, burned out, stressed out and underpaid.

“Most of us have at least $300,000 in student loans. Myself, I have over $300,000 and I make about $80,000 to $90,000 a year,” she said.

“Vet techs make about the same as you would as McDonald’s. They’re cleaning up urine and feces, they’re getting bit, they’re only making $13, $14 an hour, some of them. Then they go outside, and they’re being treated poorly by pet owners.”

Wallace doesn’t know the solution; she just wants pet owners to be aware and be more understanding.

“There is something called, ‘Not One More Vet’ and it’s a group aimed at just preventing suicide in veterinarians,” said Dr. Wallace.

“Please be much more kind and caring to your veterinarian. You don’t know what room we just got out of, what we did, who we were consoling, or what patient we just lost.”

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