With increasing rates of pet ownership, skyrocketing costs of materials and procedures, and a woefully small group of new veterinarians and clinical staff joining the industry each year, it's becoming harder and harder to source medical care for animals in need.
According to data collected and examined by the Veterinary Care Accessibility Project (which ranks access to veterinary services on a scale from 1 to 100), communities across the United States are reaching a crisis level. Here in Hudson County, which has a pet population of almost 200,000—nearly one pet per household—we scored 35/100. That’s the second-worst score in the state of New Jersey. It also confirms what we suspected: a substantial number of local animals are likely going without veterinary care.
This veterinary shortage is impacting shelters, rescue groups, and pet owners alike. Right now many shelters are unable to move animals into adoptive homes because they cannot source enough spay/neuter services. Trap, neuter, return (TNR) programs are feeling the pinch of rising surgical costs—if they can even locate appointments. And shelters like LHS are seeing an increase in the number of pets entering the shelter with severe untreated medical conditions. This is putting an exceptional amount of pressure on organizations and individuals trying to provide for pets and people in need, and causing overcrowding in some shelters.
LHS has been carefully monitoring this data and making plans for what comes next. Construction began last year on our new medical clinic, which would enable us to provide healthy pet services to our community right on-site. This includes vaccinations, spay/neuter, essential health and wellness care, and more. Though some services have already begun on a pre-scheduled basis, the grand opening of the clinic is planned for later in the summer with a ribbon-cutting and on-site kickoff event.
Along with the great work that will go on inside of the new clinic, the outside also is also representative of LHS’ ongoing commitment to community betterment and donor appreciation. The building features a new custom mural designed by renowned New Jersey artist DISTORT that incorporates both the portrait of some special animals that have passed through LHS over the years as well as scenes from Jersey City’s urban wildlife population. The goal of the mural is to not only add to and celebrate our community’s wonderful outdoor art scene but to help educate passers-by about the essential role urban wildlife plays in our ecosystem.
In addition to the mural, the walkway to the new clinic is adorned with custom bricks and benches generously sponsored by our donors. Each brick and bench bear the inscription of the donor's choosing – with many honoring passed pets, special family members, and other important life events. Through these donations, we’ve been able to help offset the final cost of clinic construction and bring our goal of providing safe, affordable, and available veterinary care to our community even closer to reality.