The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused local veterinarian clinics to implement a new “pet inside, owner outside” policy to ensure services remain open and the risk of spreading the virus is minimized.
According to Dr. Hillary Nauss, medical director of the Central and West Maui Animal Clinics, hours of operation remain unchanged, and the staff is taking proactive measures to limit potential exposure. New strategies include having staff members sanitize the facilities and themselves continuously throughout the day, as well as sporting protective gear at all times.
They are also requiring owners of pets being seen at the clinics to remain in their vehicles during appointments while the animals are evaluated inside.
“We are still taking appointments and are asking clients that need to come in to make an appointment, then call from their cars. We then come out to grab the animal with our leash to bring them in. We examine them, and after the assessment we call the owner in their car and go over plans and recommendations,” she said.
The clinics also are encouraging any owners of pets scheduled for nonessential surgeries or with mild symptoms to delay their appointments. These include spay or neutering services, as well as dental issues without pain. Nauss said the hope is to keep options available for those who need it the most and reduce the need for staff to use personal protective equipment in anticipation of a possible shortage of medical supplies in the near future.
So far these new procedures are being “received pretty well,” she said. “These are strange times. It’s slowing our appointment times down, but people are understanding.”
Lahaina residents Sara Bill and Kaliko Dutro brought their puppy Haku to the West Maui Clinic on Wednesday and said they are thankful the vet offices are staying open.
“Everyone is being super helpful, and we are thankful they’re open and being safe,” Bill said.
West Maui veterinary technician Monica Aursland said she is glad the clinic is able to serve the community during this anxious time, but it has not come without its challenges. The protective gear is “hot,” she said, and the “pet inside, owner outside” protocol is time-consuming.
“But we’re learning as we go,” she said.
The American Veterinary Medical Association recommended these new COVID-19 preventive strategies, and multiple vet clinics throughout Hawaii are following suit.
Jacy Perkins, a veterinarian assistant at the Kihei Veterinary Clinic, said the South Maui office is also conducting pet valet services, and no clients are allowed inside the hospital at this time.
“We are doing appointments, but it’s certainly changed the way we do business,” she said. “But we are still seeing lots of business and anticipate we will remain open over the next few weeks.”
On Oahu, Lisel Coles, clinic manager of Haiku Veterinary Clinic in Kaneohe, said the coronavirus crisis and stay/work-at-home edicts issued by the government have “cut business in half,” she said.
“We usually run with two doctors per day, but now we have reduced to one per day. We are no longer offering our grooming salon services, no longer doing boarding but are still offering essential vaccines for pets,” she said.
The Haiku clinic also adopted videoconferencing between pet owners at home and staff to reduce face-to-face interactions as much as possible. They are also offering curbside pickup for prescriptions and animal food and supplies.
For more information on the AVMA recommendations, visit avma.org.