HENRIETTA, N.Y. (WROC) — Overnight veterinary services will no longer be provided in the Rochester area. Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Services in Henrietta is the only 24-hour vet clinic in the Rochester area, but not for long.

VSES officials made the announcement to staff Wednesday and the new hours of operation are set to go into effect on January 17.

Clinic officials cite staff shortages and growing demand for service in the community as reasons for the change — eliminating the only option for overnight emergency service in the area. It also means that local pet owners facing an overnight emergency may need to travel to Buffalo or Syracuse for care.

Rebecca Lafebvre says VSES saved her 6-month-old puppy’s life back in July when the dog ate some raw pretzel dough. She said had the clinic not been there, it’s likely her pet wouldn’t have made it. She’s worried that if something like that were to happen again, her pet might not make it for the hour-long drive to Buffalo or Syracuse.

“If that drive was an hour longer, he wouldn’t have made it. There’s no way,” Lafebvre said, “If we had to go out beyond Syracuse or to the Orchard Park area, that adds so much time to that drive. And then worrying, is something going to happen while you’re in the car, or are you going to get in a car accident or something on the way to the vet? That’s pretty terrifying.”

While this decision is worrisome for local pet owners, it’s also taking a toll on veterinarians. Kelli Black has worked as a technician at VSES for nearly a year. 

“The big point that myself and my coworkers want the community to know is that this is that this decision hits us hard as well and is not a change that we take lightly. We got into this profession because we care and are passionate about providing for animals in need, and I know for myself especially I’m really hoping that this resolves as quickly as possible. It’s uncomfortable and worrying to know that there are so many that rely on us and we will have to direct them elsewhere for the time being,” said Black.

The clinic, located at 825 White Spruce Road, was founded as Veterinary Specialists of Rochester  in 1988 with the Animal Hospital of Pittsford and 10 years later moved to its own facility at its current location. It began offering 24/7 animal care back in 2000, in conjunction with Animal Emergency Service, when the two organizations rebranded to their current name.

Meantime, VSES employees are in the process of unionizing and will be holding a union vote Friday.

In a statement released by VSES Employees for Change Thursday, they said in part, “The toll of low pay, long hours, and difficult working conditions that have affected veterinary employees nationally is now hitting us here at home in Rochester…Our hope is that by joining together in solidarity veterinary workers can help raise standards for all in the industry and provide better care for pets and our clients.” 

The new hours of operation for VSES, beginning Monday will be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

A statement Thursday from Rochester Hope for Pets, a local non-profit, said:

“Rochester Hope for Pets is not directly affiliated with VSES as we function to help pets in need financially when people apply.  VSES is at a critical point with staffing. It is unfortunate for the community and the patients affected, but this is the issue affecting most of the veterinary profession nationally. They working on solutions and hopefully this will be a short term issue. “  

VSES said they hope to expand their hours back to normal operating hours once they are able to do so.