By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The pandemic has created a new national crisis in pet care. There’s an overabundance of newly adopted pets and not enough veterinary staff.

Penn Vet is trying to coordinate care so pet owners aren’t scrambling to find veterinary care for their pets.

Jennifer Fraser’s new puppy Simba was sick with a urinary tract infection, so she called her vet.

“They all said basically unless your pet is dying, they couldn’t see him,” Fraser said.

It’s happening around the country. Veterinary hospitals and offices are overwhelmed and forced to turn away patients or make them wait for hours.

“It’s become a national crisis,” Dr. Brady Beale with Penn Vet said.

Beale says there’s a shortage of veterinary workers and burnout is high.

“We are probably turning down at least 20, 50 people a day and it’s disheartening because you want to help them,” veterinarian Dr. Nicole Palumbo said.

Colette Eule says she had to call several vets to treat a cut on her dog’s neck.

“They said they would take her in but a wait would have been 14, 16 hours,” Eule said.

The pet care crisis is also being fueled by a surge of new patients. It’s estimated 12-and-a-half million households got a pandemic pet.

“I don’t know a family that didn’t adopt a dog during COVID and quarantine,” Beale said.

Pandemic safety protocols like enhanced cleaning and distancing have also slowed down vet practices.

“It’s not for lack of trying. Our teams are working around the clock,” Beale said.

And now for the first time, many vet hospitals around the Philadelphia region have occasionally gone on divert status — like what happens in human hospitals when medical staffs are forced to turn away patients.

“We will always take care of the critical unstable patient that meets us at the front door,” Beale said.

A new coalition put together by Penn Vet is aiming to improve the situation.

“It has been a hard 18 months,” Beale said. “And this looks like a sustained extraordinary circumstance for many of us.”

Beale says improving pay and the work environment in veterinary offices is a priority.

Stephanie Stahl