THUNDER BAY — A local veterinary clinic is optimistic the introduction of a veterinary sciences program at Lakehead University will move the needle on a worsening shortage of animal health services in the area.
Tanis Ylimaki, practice manager at Crossroads Veterinary Clinic, said the business is “very excited” about the possibilities opened up by the program, which is poised to move ahead after the province committed funding beginning in 2024 in its budget released last week.
The Crossroads clinic, which focuses on cats and dogs, has five veterinarians. Ideally, Ylimaki said, they’d like to hire at least one or two more to help meet local demand, which has only grown as more people added pets to their families during the pandemic.
“We’re at full capacity,” she said. “We just can’t take any more patients on a day-to-day basis, basically just because we don’t have enough veterinarians to see them.
“So every day we’re sending people away, telling them that they have to drive to Dryden or Grand Marais just to get their pets seen if they’re sick or if they need vaccines.”
She called the need for more veterinary service widespread locally, impacting both domestic and agricultural animals, with the city having only a couple of large animal veterinarians.
Lakehead anticipates its program, delivered jointly with the University of Guelph, will accept 20 students from northern Ontario each year.
Students would spend their first and second years at Lakehead, before completing the final two at Guelph.
Lakehead has pledged to maximize placements and internships in the north, an opportunity Ylimaki says Crossroads would welcome.
“Recruiting has been a huge challenge for me in the last couple of years, trying to get anybody to come to the Thunder Bay area,” she said. “We actually have started to look internationally to get veterinarians.”
“I know lots of local people who go to Guelph — some come back, but lots of them do tend to stay in the GTA. I’m very hopeful we’ll get more people that want to stay in Thunder Bay, and perhaps the Northwest as well.”