Veterinarians, veterinary technicians in short supply as pet care needs increase amid pandemic time

Dr. Matthew Toscano

Dr. Matthew Toscano, chief veterinarian at Pasadena Humane, provides a general wellness check on a pet dachshund.

We are about to have a huge gap that will be hard to fill at Pasadena Humane. Later this month, our Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Matthew Toscano, his wife and two adorable children will be leaving sunny SoCal to move to Florida to be closer to relatives.

I cannot imagine how difficult it has been for Dr. Mat and his wife to care for two babies without the support of family nearby over the past couple of years. Their son was born in 2019, a few months before the pandemic began, and a little sister arrived in 2021.

While we certainly understand and respect the need to put family first — and we would expect no less from Dr. Mat — we will miss him sorely. He is a consummate professional, loving husband, devoted father and an all-around great guy. His leadership and expertise in shelter medicine have elevated our team’s ability to help the most at-need animals with advanced medical care and treat many highly contagious illnesses previously considered untreatable in a shelter setting.

Over the past three years at Pasadena Humane, Dr. Mat has built a team of five full-time veterinarians, along with the registered veterinary technicians to support them. Given a nationwide shortage of veterinary professionals, this has been an amazing feat.

If you have a pet, you may have noticed how challenging it is to access veterinary care. There simply are not enough veterinarians and veterinary technicians to meet the growing demand created as the number of pets continues to increase. The short supply of professionals, coupled with social distancing protocols and supply chain issues during the pandemic, has led to a true crisis in care.

I’ve had problems getting my dog Sueshi into her vet when she has been sick. I’ve been offered appointments weeks out, which doesn’t help with urgent needs. I’ve even had problems getting her into urgent care facilities.

Sadly, I know of one person who was turned away by numerous animal hospitals when her beloved pet suddenly developed seizures. The dog tragically died in her car because the hospitals simply did not have the staffing capacity to care for even one more animal.

At Pasadena Humane, we have been so fortunate to have Dr. Mat at the helm of our medical team. He has been successful in recruiting talented veterinarians from as far away as the East Coast. We’ve also developed a scholarship program to grow veterinary technicians, similar to registered nurses, from within our organization.

Since we began the RVT scholarship program with the support of generous donors, two Pasadena Humane team members have completed their education, passed the rigorous exam, and become registered veterinary technicians. Four additional team members have begun their education, and we look forward to their graduations in the coming months.

The veterinary profession is tough, which is one reason for the shortage. And I would argue that the most difficult place to be a vet is in an animal shelter. We are lucky to have dedicated professionals like Dr. Mat who devote their lives to helping animals most in need.

Dr. Mat, we wish you and your family all the best. We will miss you, your expertise, and your compassion for the animals and people in our community.

Oh, and by the way, could you please help recruit your replacement before you leave? We can use all the help we can get finding another veterinarian.

Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane.

This article was originally published in Pasadena Star-News on March 3, 2022. Since then, the Chief Veterinarian position at Pasadena Humane has been filled.