Veterinary practices are open, though cautious
HARLEM VALLEY — As businesses slowly reopen and New Yorkers test the waters to see if they can re-enter society in the months after COVID-19 first swept the nation, pet owners can rest easy knowing that their canine, feline and other four-legged friends have been well taken care of by their local veterinarians during the pandemic. Deemed an essential business by the state, veterinary practices have been able to take care of animals while keeping their doors shut to the public. Ever since New York has been reopening in phases, local vet offices have been looking to allow the public back inside, cautiously; some are offering curbside service to those who aren’t comfortable entering their buildings at this time.
Millerton Veterinary Practice, located at 199 Route 44 in Millerton, had to adapt its operations to meet COVID-19 protocols, such as launching curbside service back in March. With more people staying home due to COVID-19, the practice’s business initially slowed down for a few weeks in the spring. According to Dr. Carrie Cannon, DVM, who owns the business, revenue was down at least 30% during height of the pandemic and is now down about 10% from last year. She attributed this to the change in business, particularly since the practice has been conducting much work over the phone and taking a longer time to attend to each patient.
“We’re really only seeing one patient at a time,” Cannon said. “We’re able to do what we need to do, but it’s been challenging and it has its rewards as well.”
Cannon said she makes around two to three phone calls per patient. A technician will also speak to the client in the parking lot to go over any details. For each appointment, the technician will go out to the parking lot to retrieve the animal. Once they’re inside, the staff keeps the animals calm and happy by using fear-free tactics.
“We’re actually having a ball with them,” Cannon said. “The dogs like to come in and visit with everyone and get lots of treats.”
The goal is to create an environment where the clients can see their pets being treated as well as be able to talk back and forth with the vet without having direct contact.
The practice is gearing up to be able to allow people in the building one family at a time, hopefully by the end of August. It all depends on how the pandemic goes and what the state will allow. Even when the practice reopens its doors completely to the public, Cannon said they will still offer curbside service.
And in addition to enforcing social distancing inside of at least 8 to 10 feet, the practice also installed Plexiglas shields at the reception desk. Cannon added they’ll probably have one receptionist at the desk when people are let into the building and that they might use a bigger area to examine the pets rather than the exam rooms, since the exam rooms tend to be closed in with the doctors, technicians and owners.
“We feel grateful to be able to work through this time and to be there for the pets,” Cannon said, “because we’re an essential service and we’re grateful to be in a position to be working, be safe and keep our clients safe as well.”
To contact the Millerton Veterinary Practice, call 518-789-3440.
Located at 7915 Route 22 in Copake Falls, Copake Veterinary Clinic also offers curbside service; the public is likewise barred from entering the building during the health crisis. With more than 25 employees, Copake Veterinary Clinic Business Manager Tait Wheeler said the clinic initially split its staff into two teams for several weeks so it could continue operations in case someone got sick.
Similar to the Millerton Veterinary Practice, Wheeler said COVID-19 has impacted its ability to communicate with clients. Though the number of animals the clinic sees per day has decreased significantly, he said client demand has increased significantly since the clinic’s clientele demographics include second home and summer clients.
For appointments, clients must drive into the clinic’s driveway and call the front office. In addition to reaching out to their clients via phone, Wheeler said the clinic recently started broadcasting through a local AM radio transmitter in which clients are instructed to tune into the call so they have all the information and know when to check their animal into the clinic — keeping everything contact-free. Once the clinic is ready, owners bring their pets into the foyer and come back later to retrieve them after the appointment is over.
Wheeler said, “Our techs are very good with the animals, and my observation is we haven’t had big issues with the animals because we make them feel pretty good.”
Predicting the clinic won’t be opening its doors to the public in the near future, Wheeler said they’re preparing the clinic through the summer. If anything should change, the clinic will inform the public.
To contact the Copake Veterinary Clinic, call 518-329-6161.