On a single sunny afternoon recently, three dogs were rushed to La Jolla Veterinary Hospital (LJVH) by their humans for allergic reactions to bee stings.
Emergencies are the only appointments being made at LJVH during the COVID-19 crisis. Because of the restriction, by order by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), business is down by half, according to hospital administrator Stephanie Coolidge. This forced a reduction from two vets on duty by day and one at night to just one per day.
“We do this because it’s what the market will bear, but also because we want our staff to be safe,” said Coolidge, who describes her business as “completely changed” by the crisis.
All staff wear surgical masks at all times, for instance, and maintain a six-foot distance from other humans. (Despite the extra demand, when Sharp Memorial Hospital contacted the animal hospital recently, it donated all excess personal protective equipment to them.)
These days, patients must also be removed from their cars by their humans — “no more crawling in the back seat because Fluffy doesn’t want to get out,” Coolidge said — and then the leashes or crates must be handed to an LJVH staffer.
“Our nurses are in regular contact with the public and they’re concerned,” she said. “Some are either at high risk or live with their elderly grandparents. So we consult with the CDC and AVMA all the time to adopt the latest protocols.”
California and 16 other states have classified veterinary practices and animal hospitals as essential businesses during the pandemic. Considering that U.S. law still classifies pets as human property, that’s a major step forward.
“I know, right?” Coolidge replied. “Pets are family members. And if my daughter, my mother, or any member of my family — including my dog — is truly suffering from a physical ailment, I want to make sure they can be treated.”
Coolidge, her partner and their daughter share their Clairemont home with a blind, epileptic and cantankerous 15-year-old Chihuahua mix named Broccoli and Piggie, the six-year-old rescue of unknown ancestry who belongs to their nine-year-old daughter, Ella.
“Animals have a positive effect on a human’s mental and emotional health,” Coolidge said.