Local Businesses and COVID-19: New Canaan Veterinary Hospital 

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For today’s Q&A with a local business owner, we talk to town resident Dr. Paul Potenza of New Canaan Veterinary Hospital. Established 70 years ago, the Vitti Street veterinary practice is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday. 

Here’s our interview.

New Canaanite: Tell me about how you’re operating now.

Dr. Paul Potenza of New Canaan Veterinary Hospital and Ellie, his Australian shepherd dog. Contributed

Dr. Paul Potenza: We cut ourselves back to essential services only, which is only the veterinary and the medical-surgical side of it. So we shut down the kennel. Usually, we have a big demand during the spring break in April, and of course that didn’t happen, so we shut it down and we are able to use that space. So what clients do is, we see one client at a time and they call us when they get to our office and we have them come in through the kennel door, and they take their leash off their pet, put the pet in one of our big cages and then they leave and we come in, put our leash on and bring their pet to a treatment area. So there is no direct contact. We do all our communication over the phone, so after we do our examination and treatment, we call the client and we talk to them and then proceed from there. So there is no direct contact. We have shut down the front waiting room and, of course, we are all wearing masks all day.

New Canaan Veterinary Hospital is on Vitti Street. Streetview

Business-wise, how is New Canaan Vet faring?

We are down about 50%, which is really difficult. And that is one of the reasons I had to cut back our hours, but I am trying to keep our team together. This whole CARES [Act], I filled out the paperwork on day one and have not heard anything yet. So we are waiting for that. 

You put in for the Paycheck Protection Program?

First round, first day. So I have my fingers crossed. I can only hold out for so long. Our clients are coming in, which is wonderful because we are an essential service. And oddly enough—it’s a funny thing and you probably read this because you are a dog lover—people are getting a lot of puppies. So that has been a lot of fun, because people are home and it’s a good thing to do to, to bring a baby into house.

Help me understand. You’re saying people are home and they are adding pets to their families and that your clients are coming in, though the kennel is closed for now. What is happening? Are people staying away for certain services because they’re money-conscious?

I dontt get the sense that they are money-conscious but I could be wrong. Back during the mortgage crisis, we didn’t have this quarantine thing and people were definitely money-conscious. I think, but I’m just guessing, that those who do come in want our services but lot of routine things people are putting off.

Like what.

Routine checkups and vaccinations. Keeping up-to-date with those things is important. But the medical issues, they are coming in because they consider them more important than just checkups and vaccinations and routine preventative care. So they are coming in and they’re really happy to have us there. I’m seeing much less of the annual exams and that sort of thing. Those are important, because we see things on an annual exam and check for things that clients won’t notice, but they’re holding off until they feel it’s safe to venture out. 

You mentioned the quarantine, and we don’t know how long these restrictions will last. What is your sense at this point of New Canaan Vet’s ability to outlast the crisis?

We will survive. My staff is wonderful and we are like a family. We are down to our core people. If and when we get this loan, then I will hire everyone back so it takes the burden off of the unemployment office. But we are down to our core people. We have gone from 13 or 14 people to about five, I would say. And I do feel we will pull through one way or the other. I have feeling this is as bad as it’s going to get. That is my sense, and if we have to cut back more hours then we will do that. So I think we will make it. It’s just a question of how long it will take and how behind in our all our financial obligations we may be. But we are not shutting down. We have been here for so long and we really do feel it is our responsibility. People don’t have much of an option but to go to emergency clinics if something goes wrong, and they will either not do that or go to a place they’re not comfortable with, so we want to help our clients avoid that. A lot of our pets who need ongoing treatment. Our phones have been very busy with medications for animals with chronic illness. So with taking care of long-term medical issues, we have stayed busy. 

What is your overall message for clients?

That we are here. That we are still here for them. We have always been there and our practice is as safe as it can be. We are following strict hygiene portocols. We always have. One of our employs there is just constantly scrubbing down surfaces and we are doing a no-contact situation. There is really no risk to come in and have your pet taken care of and all our employees they come in and go home. And we have had no one who has come up positive or is ill. 

One thought on “Local Businesses and COVID-19: New Canaan Veterinary Hospital 

  1. Thank you for this article. I had been meaning to call to find out about how to handle our dogs check ups which are due now. Will call today!

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