SAVOY, Ill., (WCIA) — A nationwide veterinarian shortage is hitting close to home for SportsVet Animal Medical Center in Savoy. Starting June 1, they’re stopping their emergency walk-in center and focusing on general practices.

For the past several months, Ashley Hilliker, the hospital’s manager, said they’ve been operating with just one urgent care vet. She said there should be six to be fully staffed. Hilliker knows it isn’t sustainable anymore; they want to make sure they can provide the best medical care for pets.

“I woke up to him screaming downstairs and so I went down and just gave him a quick check and realized it wasn’t something that was just going to go away on its own,” Angela Arnott said when talking about her dog Wally. She had to bring him to SportsVet’s urgent care.

“We were able to go that night and get him on medication to help him be comfortable until I could get him in to see a specialist,” Arnott described.

But now, Arnott’s not going to have that last-minute option.

“We have lost a number of veterinarians over the last several years,” Hilliker said. “We went from 24 hours a day to just during the day and into the early evening. We started with about 8 veterinarians in total. Finally widdled down to 1 veterinarian.”

She knows emergency care is important for pet parents, especially for returning clients like Arnott.

“It’s nice to see a veterinarian who already knows your pet and already knows you,” Arnott said. “It’s a little more personable.”

Now with this closure, she’s thinking about other options like U of I or even Indianapolis for advanced emergency care. Arnott’s done some research and said it would be less expensive to get him care there, than Vet Med in Urbana.

But, SportsVet in Savoy is ready to adjust and accommodate clients while the nationwide shortage hits them.

“We’ve decided to move to a more general practice type of vet care instead of trying to see patients through urgent care,” Hilliker explained.

She said moving to an appointment-only style seven days a week will provide the best care for pets. It’s something Arnott understands and will take advantage of in the future.

“If it’s something that can wait till the morning, we’ll probably just call into Sports Vet and see if we can be seen the same day,” she said.

Arnott also wants to try and help fill holes where she can. She’s not only a pet parent but also a vet tech. She took a break to start a family but wants to get back into the industry. The only problem is she’s been waiting eight weeks for the state to reinstate her license.

WCIA reached out to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation about it. A spokesperson said they’re looking into the information and touching base with the right people.

As for how SportsVet is aiming to fill the gaps, Hilliker said it’s been a process to hire more doctors because they’re so hard to find. She said vets are leaving the field for different reasons, and not as many are going to school.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture has a chart showing shortages across the country and from state to state. In Central Illinois, they report different types of vet shortages in the following counties:

  • Coles County
  • Cumberland County
  • Christian County
  • Douglas County
  • Effingham County
  • Jasper County
  • Moultrie County
  • Piatt County
  • Shelby County