East Texas veterinarians stepping up during shortage at Tyler Animal Emergency Clinic

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Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 9:54 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - With employee shortages happening all over, veterinary hospitals in Tyler are another workplace dealing with the shortfall.

“Right now it is about the animals and it’s keeping it staffed and keeping the clinic available,” said Dr. Gary Spence, the owner of Spence and White Veterinary Hospital. Spence is one of ten owners rotating in on overnight shifts at Tyler Animal Emergency Clinic.

“The guys that are working the night shifts, they go on at 6 o’clock and they’ll work ‘til the next morning when we close, then most of them go right on to their clinics that morning and run another 8 hour shift at their own clinics,” he said.

It’s tedious work but Spence said the pandemic has made it difficult to find people. In his 40 years of being open, the most similar thing Spence can recall to the last two years was when Parvo hit back in the ‘80′s.

“Parvo came through and killed hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dogs because it was a changed virus. It had been a cat problem and it changed species and we were totally unprepared for it,” Spence said. “I can remember lining up in my parking lot coming through and getting Parvo shots when they first came out. This pandemic has been very similar but unfortunately it’s in humans this time and not the K9s.”

Spence said with the opening of Texas Tech Veterinary school the state is putting out more veterinarians now than in years past. However, the graduates coming out of school don’t necessarily want to work in clinics.

“But these guys coming out of school don’t want to work the hours that we’re working,” Spence said. “They want to work 35-36 hours a week and have all the benefits and go home at night and it’s just really, really hard.”

One positive from all of this is the care and extra attention owners are giving to their animals. Spence said the pandemic has has helped veterinary medicine because people have been home with their pets.

“They’ve paid attention to their pets. They’ve picked up on a lot of things that would normally take several weeks to a month for them to pick up changes and all,” he said. “But they’ll pick up little changes at home because they’re with them all the time. So we’ve seen things a lot earlier and fortunately we’re able to save a lot more.”

Right now, Spence said his clinic is fully staffed. The ten owners on rotating shifts come from all across East Texas, from Tyler to Longview and surrounding cities.

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