MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — Silence is a rare thing to find inside the Beesley Animal Clinic in Murfreesboro. However, the facility’s only veterinarian is out sick this week, putting the clinic in a bind.
“We have had to cancel all of our services…We had to reschedule all of our spay and neuter surgeries today, which was close to 18 to 19 surgeries,” Dawn Roberts, the Beesley Animal Clinic’s executive director, told News 2 on Wednesday, Dec. 14.
Roberts said losing the clinic’s second vet earlier this year had a huge impact on the facility.
“We were doing surgeries four days a week, about 18 to 20 pets a day,” she explained. “We had to go down to one, so that’s a hundred animals per month that we’ve really not been able to get into the clinic for spay and neuter.”
Since the end of the summer, Roberts has been desperately looking for a replacement vet, with only one person applying.
“Since then, I have not had one bite on multiple listings to multiple places,” she said.
There are only a few schools in the state of Tennessee that offer veterinary science degrees: the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Lincoln Memorial University, Chattanooga State Community College, Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Memphis, Volunteer State Community College, and Columbia State Community College.
In addition, the College of Veterinary Medicine at UT Knoxville is one of only two schools offering a four-year program. Out of the 1,320 students who applied to this veterinary school for 2020-2021, admissions officials said they were only able to accept 87 applicants, including fourteen men and 73 women.
“The cost to go to vet school is skyrocketing, and to get a veterinarian degree, and they’re leaving with triple digits of school debt,” said Roberts.
For small or non-profit based facilities like the Beesley Animal Clinic, this means the potential pay makes it hard for them to attract graduates.
“You have a lot of the corporate, equity firms that are buying up some larger clinics now and they can afford that salary, but for the small independent clinics and non-profits, it’s very difficult to be able to meet the demand that these sometime recent graduates are needing to survive with their debt,” Roberts explained.
Right now, the clinic is booked out until February, so Roberts is hoping she can find a second vet to keep up with the high demand.
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“I’m hopeful that someone will recognize and have the passion for what we do,” she said.
According to Roberts, some of her staff members have cut into their vacation time to make up for the surgeries canceled this week.
In addition, Roberts said she talked to a colleague who’s reportedly heard from seven other non-profit clinics across the state that also looking for a vet.
A recent study by Mars Veterinary Health estimates our country will be short 15,000 veterinarians by 2030 if pet ownership continues to grow and vet schools aren’t able to graduate enough students to meet this demand.