Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article, published in print on April 21, incorrectly included the Wellfleet Veterinary Hospital in the list of practices owned by PetVet Care Centers.That corporation’s website listed “Duck Creek” in Wellfleet as one of its holdings, with the same address as the Wellfleet Veterinary Hospital, which is in fact independently owned by Dr. John Kelley. The Independent regrets the error.
PROVINCETOWN — Dr. Sadie, the vet, will soon be tending to this pet-friendly community’s well-loved charges again.
If last week’s zoning board of appeals hearing on a new veterinary practice proposed for Race Point Road is an indication, local pet owners are eager for Sadie Hutchings’s return. The board voted unanimously to issue a special permit for Hutchings to open a veterinary practice in what had been a yoga studio at 43 Race Point Road.
Hutchings worked at the Herring Cove Animal Hospital on Shank Painter Road for about eight years until several months ago. The Herring Cove Hospital was acquired by PetVet Care Centers, Inc. several years ago.
“I really love Provincetown,” Hutchings said in a recent interview. She lives in Wellfleet and, since leaving Herring Cove, has been practicing at the Animal Hospital of Orleans. “I am excited to be going back to all my friends there.”
Hutchings plans to lease half the building at her new location, where she will run her clinic and sell dog- and cat-related gear. A 12-by-16-foot addition will eventually provide more space. The building is owned by affordable housing developer Ted Malone.
“At this point, I won’t be able to do surgery there, but it still will be what people are used to,” she said. Cats and dogs will be her primary focus.
Nine pet owners sent letters to the zoning board before the April 7 hearing, all enthusiastically supporting the proposal. “As a year-round resident, former member of the board of Pilgrim Bark Park, and owner of (in my opinion) the two cutest dogs in town (Brandy and Alexander), I urge the zoning board to approve the application,” wrote Mitch Hollander.
Elise Cozzi and Penny Sutter wrote that “Dr. Sadie is great with canines, felines, and humans.” When their dogs, Mouse and Doodle, met Hutchings, they added, “It was love at first sight.”
Veterinarian Jay Jakubowski, who works part-time at the Herring Cove Hospital, wrote that Hutchings “built that practice.” Jakubowski said the town needs another veterinary clinic.
Hutchings hopes to open in July, but could be delayed in getting needed materials such as cages, X-ray and ultrasound equipment, and an HVAC system, she said.
Hutchings’s services will include diagnostics, pain management, acupuncture, chronic condition management, and end-of-life care. Pets will not be kept overnight, Hutchings said. Animals that require more extensive treatment will be sent to an around-the-clock facility like Cape Cod Veterinary Specialists in Dennis.
Hutchings grew up in Wellfleet and graduated from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.
The enthusiasm of those who wrote letters and spoke at the zoning board hearing brought tears to her eyes, Hutchings said, particularly a call-in comment that “Dr. Sadie is the best,” with a dog barking in the background. “It relieved a lot of anxieties I had about doing this,” she said. “I’ll need four support staff but will have only two in the beginning.” She noted the difficulty of finding knowledgeable people in the veterinary field.
“Certified vet technician is a very stressful job with a high turnover,” she said. And that’s not the only obstacle. “To find someone and pay them enough so they can live close by will be a giant challenge.”
Hutchings will own her practice, which has become a rarity on the Outer Cape. Herring Cove in Provincetown, Eastham Veterinary Hospital, and Stony Hill Animal Clinic in Chatham are now all owned by PetVet. Headquartered in Connecticut, the corporation owns 11 clinics in Massachusetts and 425 nationwide.
The trend toward corporatization of veterinary practices is national, according to a 2020 report in Veterinary Practice News, which estimated corporations own about 10 percent of general “companion animal” practices and 40 to 50 percent of more specialized referral practices. Private-equity firms are funding many of the acquisitions.
The shift away from the traditional local handoff of small veterinary practices has made ownership more difficult for younger veterinarians, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
In an article published on the AVMA website in 2018, Dr. Karen E. Felsted, a consultant to veterinary companies, said there is a limit to the corporatization underway. “I don’t see how corporates can ever own the veterinary profession in the same way that the pharmacy profession is essentially owned — unless somebody can figure out how to do something with the small one-doctor practices,” she wrote. “There’s still going to be a tiny practice in Timbuktu, Texas, that a corporate group doesn’t want to buy.”