APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – For 40 years, All Creatures Animal Hospital has been a staple in the Fox Valley for pet owners, and now, a nationwide veterinarian shortage is forcing it to close in a few weeks.
“We tried to sell it, [but] there were no interested buyers,” All Creatures Animal Hospital owner and veterinarian Dr. Margaret Orzel said. “It’s hard to find new veterinarians. The majority of veterinarians are employed by corporations instead of small private businesses.”
Wisconsin is one of 46 states facing a veterinarian shortage, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Orzel attributes the decline of veterinarians to rigorous and expensive education, long hours, lack of interest in animals, and negative effects on mental health.
“They don’t want to be running a business, so they’re working for corporations where their hours are set more,” Orzel said. “Corporations and larger businesses are able to give them more benefits.”
The job, particularly euthanasia, can take a toll on veterinarians’ mental health.
“Veterinarians have the highest rate of suicide of all the medical professions,” she said. “It’s hard to do it, but it’s a necessity. These animals live from day to day, they don’t understand the future like humans do. All they know is that they’re uncomfortable.”
She says that being kind and patient with veterinarians and their staff is key to supporting their mental health. It is what kept her in the business with her husband, Dr. Robert Sieber, for 40 years.
“It was something that I always wanted to do, and I enjoyed working with the animals, and I enjoyed working with my clients,” Orzel said. “I was always involved with animals, and I thought what a great career. And when I was 12, I wrote a letter to the University of Minnesota because I wanted more information.”
It was long hours when they first opened the clinic together because there was no emergency veterinary clinic in town.
“We were on call 7 days a week until 18 or 20 years ago when the emergency clinic opened. We were working all the time,” she said. “I felt I just didn’t want to leave any (patients) in a lurch.”
Despite the rigors, there is much that Orzel is going to miss.
“I’m going to miss the interactions, seeing all the nice animals, the clients. I’m going to miss it all, my employees,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “I just really love my job.”