by Sarah Craighead Dedmon
Maine’s critical shortage of veterinarians has made statewide headlines, including coverage of a bill passed last year to address the issue. Governor Mills signed An Act to Increase Maine’s Veterinary Workforce in May 2022, enabling veterinarians to receive loan forgiveness of up to $140,000 over four years, for practicing in an underserved geographical area.
While that program will take time to bear fruit, a more immediate solution will help Machias area pet owners care for their furry loved ones. Go Vet Go, a new mobile veterinarian service based in Bar Harbor, will begin seeing patients in Machias on Wednesday, Jan. 11, and plans to return on a regular basis.
The mobile clinic will be parked at the Machias Telebusiness Center on Stackpole Road, and pet owners can make appointments for services by sending an email to [email protected], or by calling 207-337-6100.
Dr. Brandi Smith and veterinary technician Kali Fields moved to Maine last year after Smith sold her practice in Chester, Vermont. Relocating to the Mt. Desert Island area where she established Go Vet Go as a mobile veterinary service doing house calls, Smith and Fields have been extremely busy.
“We’ve had quite a surge of people, especially when another clinic was closed,” said Fields.
Machias Town Manager Bill Kitchen said Go Vet Go reached out to the town late last year, and it felt like serendipity.
“They called and said, by chance do you have a need for this? It was a gift,” recalled Kitchen.
When Go Vet Go comes to Machias, it will be in a new truck provisioned with everything needed to provide veterinary services, including some surgeries.
“We can do pretty much do anything as long as the truck has a place to plug in,” said Fields. “There are some procedures we might have to refer out, the truck is only so big so we might not be able to do a giant dog spay because of how small the table is.”
Go Vet Go’s website, www.govetgopets.com, lists their services including wellness care, second opinions, dental care, and surgical consultations.
Machias Selectman Carole Porcher has been working behind the scenes to draw new veterinarians to the area. Porcher and her husband have two black cats, and this week will bring home a new Cavalier King Charles spaniel puppy.
“For me the greatest problem is that many vets in the area are not taking new patients. The vet clinic in Calais also just closed,” said Porcher. “For sick care you have to wait several days, at least, to get your pet in, then drive a minimum of 30 miles to get to one. At least our vet, Dr. Toothaker, comes to Columbia once a week.”
Kitchen, who has a pet cat he will bring to next week’s vet visit, says he sees the Go Vet Go model as something that might fill other gaps for the Machias area.
“I think Go Vet Go represents this really out-of-the-box thinking that is a cross between food trucks and pop up stores. There’s no reason their model couldn’t work for other services, like for a dry cleaner,” said Kitchen. “We have a number of critical service holes in our community, which in some ways means there are a number of opportunities here.”
Go Vet Go plans to return to Machias on a regular basis, though the dates are not yet set in stone.
“Especially for towns that are father out our hope is to start establishing a certain day to come weekly or bi-monthly or monthly, and do medical exams, wellness visits and vaccines,” said Fields. “If people have a need for surgical services we can schedule those for a future date.”