That comes after a failed two-year search to find a new veterinarian to serve animals at River Road Veterinary Hospital.
The River Road Veterinary Hospital will close May 31 after its parent company was unable to find a veterinarian to replace the retiring animal doctor at the clinic due to a national shortage of veterinarians. Credit: Judy Harrison / BDN

River Road Veterinary Hospital in Orrington is closing May 31 for patient care after its parent company was unable to find someone to replace its retiring veterinarian due to a national shortage of animal doctors.

The clinic, located at 210 River Road, also known as Route 15, is owned by Portland-based Rarebreed Veterinary Partners. A company spokesperson said Thursday that the company made the decision to close after a failed two-year search for a new veterinarian to serve its patients.

“There is a veterinarian shortage in our industry, including in our own Bangor community,” said Melissa Lucas, senior communications, public relations and events marketing manager. “We have been actively searching for over two years and despite our greatest efforts, we were unable to find a new veterinarian for the team.”

The veterinarian shortage is affecting clinics throughout the state, with many unable to take on new patients and experiencing long waitlists. A 2020 study by Banfield Pet Hospital — a national chain of about 300 veterinary hospitals — estimates that 75 million pets in the U.S. could be without the veterinary care they need by 2030.

As of Thursday, there were 1,008 licensed veterinarians practicing in Maine up from 892 on December 31, 2021, according to the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, the agency that licenses professionals in Maine.

A posting on River Road’s website said that Kindred Spirits, 857 River Road in Orrington, and Brewer Veterinary Clinic, 111 Pierce Road, are accepting pets who are patients at River Road clinic. The Brewer clinic also is owned by Rarebreed.

The River Road clinic will keep its doors open for records transfers until June 8, its website said.

News of the closing leaked on social media before the clinic announced the closing late Wednesday on its website and Facebook page.

The clinic opened in late 1998 with Dr. Sandra Kudrak as the veterinarian, according to Bangor Daily News archives. By 2006, Bangor High School graduate Dr. Katie Carter was running the clinic. The current vet is Dr. Karen Murphy who is retiring after working at the River Road for seven years, according to Lucas.

Recognizing there is a shortage of veterinarians in Maine, especially in rural areas, for large animals and emergency services, the Legislature last year expanded a loan program through the Finance Authority of Maine for those attending veterinary schools to care for livestock. The expanded program will make its first awards next month, according to Martha Johnston of FAME.

The initial program, launched in 2011, offered two students a year funding of $25,000 per year for up to four years of vet school, she said Thursday. Lawmakers extended the program to up to eight students per year with half of the loans going to students studying the care of large animals.

In the past 12 years, 23 students have benefited from or are currently benefiting from the original program, Johnston said.

Correction: A previous version of this story cited U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, that showed there were fewer veterinarians in Maine. The story has been updated to reflect statistics from the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.