Empty exam tables inside the Pilar and Chuck Bahde Center for Shelter Medicine at the San Diego Humane Society might seem like a good thing -- if only it had to do with a shortage of animals needing homes instead of a lack of workers needed to care for them.
San Diego Humane Society President Dr. Gary Weitzman said it's a small example of the larger crisis in veterinary medicine.
"It's so much harder to deliver services than it was before the pandemic," said Weitzman. "We're just trying to keep up."
Due to shrinking veterinary college class sizes, the industry can't backfill fast enough to keep up with what seems to be rising demand. Weitzman said more Americans spending time at home during the pandemic led to many getting new pets and others paying more attention to their pets' health.
"In the private practice world, it's curbside service; appointments that are almost impossible to get, even emergency visits with long waits," said Weitzman.
The San Diego Humane Society cares for an estimated 40,000 animals every year and has had to cut back on certain programs.
"We're one of the only resources to do low-cost spay and neuter, and we really have not been able to do it the way we want to do it the past two years because of staffing," said Weitzman.
He believes the entire industry needs a shake-up by adding the equivalent of nurse practitioners and other means for people getting health care for their pets.
The San Diego Humane Society currently has a need for workers across the board with roughly 90 open job positions.