PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Humane Society is responding to a boom in pet ownership and a dearth in veterinary care by offering basic wellness appointments.
"The more I talk to our local veterinarians I hear that they are just overwhelmed," Executive Director John Perreault explained. "There are only so many hours in the day, they can't make everybody happy."
The society is setting up in the former Allen Heights Veterinary Hospital on Dalton Avenue.
The goal is to provide affordability and accessibility while keeping local dogs and cats healthy and relieving bottlenecking at local providers.
Within this calendar year, BHS hopes to take about 2,000 appointments for comprehensive health exams, vaccines and parasite monitoring, and control services. The shelter will also utilize the Dalton Avenue facility for in-house spay and neutering of the animals in its care.
Appointments are currently being taken and the facility will open at the beginning of March.
Serious injuries, such as broken bones and emergencies, will still require a visit to a veterinary doctor.
"We're not going into competition and we're not doing this because veterinarians are not seeing people's pets," Perreault said. "We're doing this to support our veterinary community and we're going to work with our veterinary community."
Local veterinary practices were consulted to make sure that they were supportive of the project, he said.
Perreault added that local vets are going "above and beyond" but there are just too many pets that are unable to be seen because of low staffing in the profession.
Costs will vary on sliding scale based on need. While a typical vet bill can cost hundreds of dollars, the price tag of these services will range from around $100 to $150. Pet owners who are having difficulty getting in with a vet and those with affordability issues can make an appointment.
During the pandemic, BHS realized that people were having a hard time accessing and affording veterinary care. The shelter's nonprofit status allows it to leverage funds with grants and other partners to keep costs down.
"The pandemic resulted in increased demand for veterinary services as many people added new animals to their families. At the same time, the supply for services decreased as veterinary practices struggled with COVID mandates and retaining qualified staff," a press release from BHS reports.
"Some have limited their practice to existing patients, some have dropped patients who have not used their services recently and others, like Allen Heights Veterinary Services, in July of 2022, closed altogether."
That practice closed from a combination of "economic and labor forces brought about by the pandemic," according to its website.
Berkshire Humane has offered vaccination and low-cost spay and neuter clinics but saw a need for increased services. When Allen Heights closed, a turnkey opportunity opened up.
The former owners wished to keep the building as a place to help animals.
"We started talking to [Dr. Elizabeth Tullett] and her husband, Brian, about the potential approach to the Humane Society doing something," Perreault said. "And for many months, we were in conversations with them about what can we do."
BHS has a yearlong lease of the space with the option to purchase.
There have been initial discussions with Tufts University in Worcester about sending third-year veterinary students to work at the clinic.
"This is just an idea, it's just being talked about, there is an apartment within that hospital so we could put the students from Tufts up there," Perreault said.
"And when they're not working with us, then maybe they can be working at [Berkshire Veterinary Hosptial] or maybe they can be working at [South Street Veterinary Hospital], maybe they can be working at [Pittsfield Veterinary Hospital], and maybe that's a way to introduce future veterinarians to the Berkshires who otherwise may not know we exist."
He added that most of the city's practices are still looking for veterinarians.
"This is not the veterinarians' fault," Perreault said. "If anything, they were heroes during the pandemic, and in my eyes, they continue to be heroes because they're working their butts off to see as many people and help as many animals as possible. The problem is, there are only 24 hours in a day."
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Pittsfield Man Running Marathon to Raise Funds for Boston Children's Hospital
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The thing Brent White loves about running in the Berkshires is the sense of community.
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Last year, White found a new way to take that positive energy and put it to work supporting the broader community.
This month, he will share that spirit of community on the sport's biggest stage.
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