Emergency animal clinic to permanently close in November

BRIGHTON, N.Y. – Pet parents are panicking over the news that a Brighton veterinary clinic is closing for good.

If you’re a pet owner, it means that you’ll have to drive to either Buffalo or Syracuse for emergency care.

Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Services, or VSES, had already scaled back its hours, which they attribute to a staffing shortage. But they say they have no choice but to close completely on Nov. 27.

It used to be open 24 hours, providing help day or night to pets with urgent medical needs.

In 2022, they shortened their hours, blaming national staffing shortages and difficult finding people to work overnight.

Staffing issues have persisted, according to Thrive Pet Healthcare, which owns VSES and hundreds of other practices nationwide.

In a statement to News10NBC, the clinic said it explored different options to stay open, including recruitment, and using a rotation of doctors from other clinics.

But administrators say there’s just not enough full-time or even relief candidates with enough experience.

Not everyone buys the clinic’s response, though.

Tara McGrain, a surgical animal care assistant with VSES, is part of the clinic’s union. She says employees learned about the closure through a leaked letter.

“It seems that there is a draft of an email going to be sent to area hospitals, and was inadvertently sent to someone, who sent it to us. and that’s how we all found out,” McGrain said.

Mariya Barnes, vice president for corporate communications with Thrive Pet Healthcare, today said an email draft meant for referral practices was mistakenly circulated internally, announcing the facility’s upcoming closure. “We deeply regret that this is how the VSES team was informed about this tough decision,” Barnes wrote. “As soon as we realized the error, we promptly issued an official communication to our team members. Additionally, we held on-site meetings today to provide more details and address any questions from the team.”

Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart, herself a pet owner, says the private company that owns VSES should be held accountable for a “devastating” decision.

“It is horrifying, to think that in a metro like this size – more than a million people – we may not have an emergency clinic in this market,” Barnhart said.

She’s calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the private equity-owned Thrive Pet Healthcare.

“We’re going to have to tell the FTC, tell the [Department of Justice], to investigate them to see if they’re engaged in anti-competitive practices,” she said.

“When we talk about anti-trust or anti-competitive practices, what we’re really talking about is the monopoly,” she continued. “Does one company control just too much of the market that it’s being able to limit the services offered, and even exacerbate the vet shortage we’re facing right now?”

Barnhart says someone from the FTC has told her it’s under review.

McGrain was critical of Thrive’s actions, as well.

“They treated us horribly, they would not negotiate with the doctors. If you look at their pay as well as the pay across the country, it’s not even close to comparable. So yes, they deliberately did this in my opinion,” McGrain said.

For now, VSES is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.