By Dillon Thomas

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, a world renowned animal care facility, is having to temporarily close its doors overnights due to extreme staffing shortages. Schools, restaurants and other businesses have seen staffing shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now that very issue is forcing CSU to turn away overnight patients through the month of October.

Dr. Amanda Cavanagh, Assistant Professor of Urgent Care at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, said a lack of staffing, increased demand for animal medical services and scheduling issues have forced the university to cut service hours through October.

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“Right now all parts of the team are understaffed,” Cavanagh told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “We quickly realized in urgent care that October was going to be extremely short in terms of veterinary staffing, technician staffing and front desk staffing.

Part of the issue, according to Cavanagh, stemmed from an abundance of pet adoptions and purchases during the pandemic.

More people decided to get pets while they were working from home. Because of that, family veterinarians were overwhelmed with patients. A trickledown effect then led to more people bringing their pets to CSU’s emergency hospital for lower-level medical needs.

“Now those come to the emergency room because the family veterinarians are profoundly busy and can’t squeeze another patient in their already-booked day,” Cavanagh said.

At the same time the demand for veterinarians outpaced the amount of people entering the profession.

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“We are definitely seeing this national shortage of veterinarians to meet the number of pets that do need care,” Cavanagh said. “The pet numbers have really jumped up in the past couple years, but the veterinary numbers haven’t been able to keep up with that.”

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While CSU searches for more vet technicians, veterinarians and receptionists, the vet hospital will be operating under restricted hours. Through the month of October the animal hospital will not be accepting patients after 7 p.m. and before 7 a.m.

Cavanagh said that decision is ultimately best for all involved. The hospital ultimately exists to educate future vets. So, the university wanted to assure students were given thorough educations.

Typically there would be anywhere from three-to-five emergency veterinarians working overnights. Currently there is only one.

By restricting hours of operation the staff can assure quality education, while also making sure patients are getting quality care.

“If we try to provide patient care with low staffing number, or we try to provide patient care with a tired staff, we are more likely to cause medical errors,” Cavanagh said.

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While CSU is asking outside vets to take more patients during this time, animals brought to the CSU campus that are experiencing extreme emergencies will be given as much care as possible until stabilized.

Dillon Thomas