My Pet’s Vet closing worries Island veterinarians

Shrinking number of veterinarians overwhelmed by number of pets on-Island.

My Pet's Vet in Vineyard Haven is closing in April. — Eunki Seonwoo

My Pet’s Vet in Vineyard Haven announced it will close its doors on April 27, 29 years after it opened in 1994. The closure will further shrink the number of on-Island veterinarians, whose services are in high demand. 

“I want to thank each and every one of you for your continued support over the years, and I wish you and your furry friends the best going forward,” Kirsten Sauter, veterinarian and owner of My Pet’s Vet, wrote in a Facebook post thanking clients. 

My Pet’s Vet will be able to email electronic records for pets containing vaccination and medication prescription information. 

When asked by The Times the reason for closing her business, Sauter said simply, “It’s time.” Sauter is retiring.

A joint response was issued by Island veterinarians in response to questions regarding the lack of veterinary care on Martha’s Vineyard.

Six veterinary practices are active on Martha’s Vineyard, although the Island still does not have “a 24/7 emergency clinic with full-time staffing, in-patient care, and specialists,” the statement says. 

Michelle Jasny, a veterinarian and “Visiting Vet” columnist for The Times, joined Sauter, Steven Atwood of Island Healthcare Associates, Charles Roger Williams of Vineyard Veterinary Clinic, David Tuminaro of Caring for Animals, and Constance Breese of Sea Breeze Veterinary Service in issuing the statement.

Access to veterinary care has always been difficult for Martha’s Vineyard, going back to the first private veterinary practice opening in the mid-1970s. The clinic then was staffed by Cape-based veterinarians, who needed to rotate staying on the Island to provide “after-hours emergency care” on nights and weekends. 

Twenty-three years ago, an on-call rotation system was put in place for veterinarians to provide emergency care for Island animals after regular business hours. This often leads to the on-call veterinarian covering a 24-hour shift. 

According to the statement, the veterinarians “had to juggle many issues,” such as differing staff sizes, equipment availability, and the fact not every veterinarian treats both small and large animals. 

A national veterinarian and veterinary staff shortage, and many younger veterinarians not wanting to do “on call” work in an area like Martha’s Vineyard, affect the Island’s ability to attract and retain talent. 

Even if a younger veterinarian is willing, the ongoing affordable housing crisis limits who can come to the Island. These factors, alongside others like zoning issues and a seasonal economy, prevent a 24/7 emergency veterinary hospital from being established, or even a large corporate veterinary company, such as Banfield Pet Hospital, from taking over.

“Several Island veterinarians have been trying to sell their practices for many years,” the statement said. “Due to the shift in the economics and overall gestalt of veterinary practice in recent years, these practice owners have not been able to find veterinarians, individually or corporate, interested in buying and taking over their clinics.”

Another issue is that the year-round population “has been steadily increasing” on Martha’s Vineyard, especially during the pandemic. 

The rise in residents also brought additional pets to the Island. Many people “stuck at home during the early days of the pandemic” also adopted new pets. 

“People who used to stay here one or two months a year are now here for six months, or eight months, or more,” the statement said. “The standard of care in veterinary medicine has also changed so dramatically that the expectations of pet owners often exceed what our small local practices can provide.” Many veterinarians have not taken new clients for years. 

The issue is exacerbated by the fact that there are fewer veterinarians than before. The remaining veterinarians are older now, some with health issues or severe work-related injuries, and others have family concerns. “Some of us simply want to retire, or at least to slow down after being ‘on call’ for so many years,” the statement reads. 

To lessen the load, Island veterinarians started working with a pet telemedicine service called VetTriage in November. 

Local veterinarians respond to both large- and small-animal emergencies, but “all after-hours calls first went through VetTriage.” VetTriage can be reached at or by phone at 800-940-1912, and the telemedicine veterinarian can determine if the animal needs immediate emergency care from the on-call Island veterinarian, or if the owner can wait until regular office hours. 

Some animal emergencies “are too serious for us to handle locally,” and owners are provided with “necessary information about traveling off-Island to emergency facilities.” According to the statement, 67 percent of after-hours and weekend calls could be handled by VetTriage veterinarians and “could wait until office hours to be seen in person.”

“This, however, does not change the fact that the Vineyard simply has too many people and too many pets for the number of local veterinarians,” the statement reads. “We are grateful for the hard work put in by all our dedicated staff members, and for our understanding clients, but we have been overwhelmed for years.”

With the current veterinary landscape on the Island, the statement gave a series of recommendations for Vineyard pet and livestock owners. Those who have a regular veterinarian should “always check with them first to see if they can accommodate your basic veterinary needs.” If a local practice cannot act as the “primary care” veterinarian, animal owners will be referred to Vista Veterinary Hospital in Falmouth, a recently opened practice. However, they are not open for emergencies after hours, on weekends, or holidays. 

The current Island veterinary system will continue until the end of April, according to the statement. For those who have a “small-animal emergency,” the statement provides steps people can take.

  1. If you have a regular Island veterinarian, call their office as early as possible. 
  2. If you do not have a regular veterinarian, or if your regular veterinarian cannot see you, see if there is a local “on-call” clinic open. During office hours, the veterinary offices can tell you who is on-call. 
  3. After business hours, contact VetTriage for urgent matters regarding both small and large animals; they can determine if immediate emergency care is needed. 
  4. If a local veterinarian is unavailable during an emergency, small animals should be taken to a 24/7 emergency veterinary hospital on the mainland. The closest are Cape Cod Veterinary Specialists in Bourne or VCA South Shore Veterinary Associates in South Weymouth. Those in this situation should call the Steamship Authority, but if ferries are not running, Patriot Party Boats can be contacted to charter a boat to the mainland, although they do not take vehicles. 
  5. For large animals, contact your regular large-animal veterinarian first. If unavailable, contact VetTriage. If immediate care is advised but nobody is available on-Island, a trailer can be arranged to be transported to a veterinary hospital, such as Tufts Equine Center in Grafton, if Steamship Authority ferries are running. Call ahead before bringing the animal to any emergency center. Many local horse owners use off-Island equine veterinarians for routine care, who can be contacted for advice.
  6. If an animal ingested or was exposed to a toxin, contact Pet Poison Hotline at 800-213-6680 or the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 888-426-4435. 

Emergency services cost additional fees. The statement recommends becoming familiar with, which lists veterinary services and tips. 

While it is uncertain how much of an impact My Pet’s Vet’s closing will have, the statement asks animal owners to be patient. 

“We care deeply about the Island animals and their owners, but there is only so much each of us can do,” the statement reads. “More of us will likely be retiring in the not-too-distant future. We hope new veterinarians will come here eventually, especially those who are willing to provide emergency care, but we have not succeeded in making that happen despite our best efforts. In the meantime, we encourage all Island animal owners to be aware of the situation, set up a VetTriage account, learn about all the options in advance, and be prepared.”