ELMIRA, NY (WETM) – There is a lack of 24-hour emergency veterinary care in the Elmira area, and pet owners are concerned.
When Tosha Purvis’ cat got very sick, she got very worried. Mainly because it was a weekend. As an emergency telephone operator, she knew there were no veterinary hospitals open nearby, as she constantly answered such calls.
“We get calls almost every day from people seeking veterinary care during emergency hours, I literally had nightmares after taking some of these calls,” said Purvis, emergency phone operator at Chemung County.
Within a 30-mile radius of the town of Elmira, there are approximately 30 veterinary clinics, and the nearest 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital is at Cornell University. Which is at least a 45 minute drive, for most locals in the Elmira area.
For some, like Purvis, the 45- to 50-minute drive even costs them the life of their pet.
“I had no way to get my cat there and my cat died,” Purvis said.
But, vets across the country are feeling exhausted. Even the Cornell University Companion Animal Hospital is understaffed.
“We are facing huge staff shortages… I was personally shouted, ‘How dare you not being able to see my pet! “… We don’t like to turn people away,” said Rhea Adams, licensed veterinary technician. at Cornell University Pet Hospital.
Horseheads Lake Road Animal Hospital emailed 18 News claiming vets are leaving the profession due to high stress and low pay.
“For the work we do, I think we are grossly underpaid… This is probably the number one reason why [veterinary] technicians leaving the field, ”Adams said.
Lake Road Animal Hospital also mentioned that practices in the area are avidly advertising hiring vets and technicians to help care for pets, but there are very few applicants.
“The little local hospitals… they just don’t have the staff to be there 24/7,” Adams said.
But pet owners say most of the time they just want a hotline to call for advice. Is this an emergency that requires immediate attention or can she wait?
“It is difficult for us to dictate what is an emergency and what is not an emergency … If something happens to my baby [her dog], oh I’m freaking out, ”said Brittany Girardi, pet owner and resident of Horseheads.
“Just having a vet can be on call locally, instead of always having to go to Cornell, that would really be a savior for all of us,” said Traci Bowman, pet owner and resident of the town of Elmira.