“But if this was someone’s pet, they wouldn’t get into the vets today, maybe not tomorrow, and they wouldn’t have the knowledge or the eyedrops or things on hand to make the kittens healthy.
“[The kittens] possibly could have lost some eyes.”
There is a dire shortage of vets in the country – the Veterinary Association estimates Aotearoa is about 100 clinicians short – with the labour issue being described by vet recruitment agency Vetstaff as at crisis point.
Compounding that problem in the capital is the closure of a couple of key clinics – sending pet owners scrambling to get appointments for their furry friends.
Last week, the popular Wellington SPCA Vet Clinic – which has about 1500 people on its books – stopped treating owned pets, and will now concentrate solely on abused, neglected and vulnerable animals that come into its care.
And last year, Tasman Street Vet Centre, which has similar capacity, closed.
Clinic turns away owners
Island Bay Veterinary Clinic head nurse Jade Blackbourn said most vet clinics in the area were now at capacity, and her centre had to turn away sick animals daily.
“It’s really hard because you feel for the [owners].
“We’re here to help animals out, but when you have to turn them away it’s distressing. Not only for the owner, but for us as well.”
Blackbourn said capacity in central Wellington and nearby suburbs could be down by more than a third.
On Wellington’s south coast, Paul is walking his dogs, Chloe and Nala.
He had been on the books at the SPCA, and has had trouble finding another option.
“One of our dogs is a little bit older and has arthritis so usually has a regular appointment, but now there’s a whole month gap because we couldn’t fit into a new vet for at least a month which is a little bit of a problem.
“And we actually haven’t really got an answer for an urgent vet at the moment either, which is a bit of a concern.”
About a third of registered vets in New Zealand are from overseas, and changes to the border and visa rules last year to get more into the country failed to attract many applicants – put off by delays getting into MIQ.
Jody Sharratt from Feral Nation said the shortage of overseas workers was taking its toll on the vets at the clinics she used.
“I haven’t seen new faces in the last few years, it’s the same faces and they’re pretty tired faces.
“They’re doing the best they can but I know they also get a lot of abuse.
“Everyone phones up on the day and wants their cat to be seen ‘now’ and they get abuse if they can’t book them until ‘tomorrow’ or ‘Monday’.
“They just need more staff, more vets.”
The staff shortage appears to be widespread.
Lower Hutt resident Nicole Mahon said she had trouble getting an appointment at her local vet last week – with the clinic putting it down to staff shortages.
“My dog was really lethargic and had an upset stomach, just sleeping a lot and generally quite sad looking.
“And so I was a bit concerned – he’s 12, so he’s a bit older – and I called the vet and they just had no appointments until someone cancelled and then I got that spot.”
There are hopes that when the borders are fully open again it will bring an influx of overseas vets who will ease the pressure.