VEG of Nanuet Corners Market On Humane Emergency Care For Pets & Their People

Business Features Health Living People Real Estate
RCBJ-Audible (Listen For Free)
Voiced by Amazon Polly

VEG Expands Template Nationally But Struggles To Combat Shortage Of Trained Veterinarian Workers In Region

By Tina Traster

Nearly every cat or dog “mom” or “dad” has experienced the terror of an emergency visit to the veterinarian. Typically, you rush to the 24/7 facility, assuming there is one within range of where you live. The ailing creature is taken into the bowels of the hospital. You fret and pace, sometimes for hours, not knowing the status of your furry companion. Sometimes, you’re approached by an administrator who asks you how you’ll be paying for the service. If you’re lucky, everything turns out okay but you – maybe even more than your pet – feel traumatized.

This is not how it works at VEG (Veterinary Emergency Group), a home-grown 24/7 animal emergency center that cut its teeth in Westchester and Rockland, and has expanded to 70 locations nationwide and is growing. Ten years ago, David Bessler, an ER veterinarian at Blue Pearl, envisioned a better emergency room experience for pet owners and their furry charges. Opening his first location in White Plains, Bessler endeavored to design a new type of ER experience.

The first tenet of VEG is to keep people together with their pets throughout the visit. Even if a pet needs surgery, an owner is invited to don scrubs and watch.

“In a typical vet, a customer checks in and waits while the animal is taken to the back,” said Michael Butler, the VEG Nanuet Market Owner, who oversees five clinics in New York, including Nanuet’s facility at 123 Route 59. “At VEG, we keep everyone together in the hospital so the owner can see everything,” said Butler, explaining every clinic has an open plan. “When a pet owner must wait for hours and they don’t know what’s going on, it causes tension for them, the doctors, everyone.”

Bessler, along with co-founder David Glattstein, have pioneered an ER culture Butler says is working because it is focused entirely on the ER experience, and it incorporates the kind of humane practices not typically seen in 24/7 hospitals (which are more akin to frenetic, stressful human hospital ERs).

“There are two basic things,” said Butler. “Clients see a doctor right away. Also, we push doctors to sit on the floor. We try not to stand in a white lab coat dictating medical terminology. We literally push doctors to get down on the floor at the pet’s level to make the experience more comforting.”

Human healthcare professionals: are you listening?

The partners own the White Plains building at 201 Tarrytown Road, but lease the Nanuet clinic, which was previously a mattress store. Butler says the Nanuet store is a template for the chain, which typically has between five to ten doctors, and 30 to 60 employees.

“We love Rockland County, it is a sentimental hospital being the second one we opened,” said Butler, and a template for the growing list including four in New Jersey, and practices in Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and California. “In many ways, the practice is unique because we’ve kept most of the staff together for the past five years.”

Butler believes the staff is bonded because the company culture stresses a humane environment for both animals and people.

“A lot of people transition because of burnout,” Butler said, adding there is a dire shortage of vet tech candidates and veterinarians, in part because there is a dearth of veterinarian schools and programs in the region. VEG is increasingly focusing its efforts on recruiting and training doctors.

“The vet industry is chronically short-staffed,” said Butler. “We do not have enough schools, and nurses to staff hospitals.”

Part of what made the founders’ vision different was that veterinarians would typically work in ER and move on to become full-time doctors. What VEG is cultivating is ER training that keeps doctors and staff in place.

VEG tries to open locations that don’t complete with existing veterinarians offering 24/7 emergency services. When the clinic opened in Nanuet about eight years ago, Valley Cottage Animal Hospital, a full-service veterinarian clinic, was open 24 hours. VCAH discontinued 24/7 services after the pandemic.

Now, VEG is the only 24-hour ER option in Rockland County.

“All we do is emergency,” said Butler. “We don’t encroach on general practitioners or specialists. But we work with them. We have taken the time to cement ourselves with referring vets. We take these relationships very seriously.”

Some Rockland vets have coordinated after-service calls to switch directly to VEG’s phonelines. First responders and animal control officers use the clinic for stray and injured animals.

To date, most clinics, which are leased, range from 3,000 to 4,000 square feet, though newer ones are stretching past 6,000 square feet. The company scouts for locations that have population centers large enough to generate revenue that supports buildouts and ongoing operations. Typical locations have a population of at least 300,000 to 500,000 within a 30-minute driving range.

VEG plans to continue its expansion and is eyeing the Albany region.  Corporately the company has more than 300 employees based in White Plains.

Like every clinic, VEG encounters people who cannot pay for a service.

“It’s a tough subject,” said Butler. “I’m continuously floored by the willingness of VEG corporate to do what we think is right in the moment. There are no rules for what we can and can’t do. We find a way to say yes!”

Again, are you listening human healthcare providers?