By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A surge in the number of pets adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a major increase in business at veterinary hospitals, causing longer wait times, staff shortages, and frustrated pet owners, officials from a Southland veterinary hospital company said Monday.

“The veterinary industry is under huge strain to meet the demand, with emergency room visits across all of our hospitals sky-rocketing,” ACCESS Special Animal Hospitals Director of Operations Leah Basinais said in a statement. “Unfortunately, six- to eight-hour wait times are not unusual, and occasions, when our emergency rooms reach full capacity and are unable to accept new patients, are more frequent. And it’s not just our hospitals — we often get phone calls from desperate pet owners telling us we are the fifth hospital they called and that no one could take them.”

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ACCESS officials said primary care vets are also impacted, often unable to take on new pet patients. That overload can lead to pet owners taking their animals to emergency animal hospitals like ACCESS for non-emergencies.

According to ACCESS, the American Pet Products Association estimates that more than 11 million pets were adopted between March and November of 2020, contributing to the influx of vet emergency room visits.

ACCESS recommended that pet owners:

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— keep up with routine pet care and schedule regular checkups with your primary vet at least four weeks in advance;

— watch out for pets and try to avoid preventable emergencies;

— purchase pet insurance to offset vet costs;

— be patient when visiting busy pet hospitals and understand how the triage system works.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)