Who Owns Your Local Vet Clinic?
Most Kiwis would assume their local veterinary clinic is owned by the vet who treats their pet – but this is no longer the reality.
Around one third of New Zealand veterinary clinics are now owned by corporate groups – many with offshore owners.
In the past few years, dozens of individual vet clinics throughout New Zealand have been acquired by corporate groups; which may have Australian, US or European owners. Corporate ownership is more prevalent in New Zealand’s major cities. In Christchurch, for instance, almost half of the companion animal vet clinics are now owned by offshore corporates.
This has led to the launch of a new collective, called IndieVets, to support the future of locally-owned vet clinics. Its website (www.indievets.co.nz) allows Kiwi pet-owners to search for clinics that are owned by the vet who works there.
The group is being coordinated by Dr Steve Merchant, a past president of the New Zealand Veterinary Association, and co-founder of the Pet Doctors Group.
“We think community-owned clinics offer something special that Kiwis will want to retain. When the vet works and lives in their community, they really get to know their local families and their pets, often across generations.
“Many pet-owners might also prefer that the money they’re spending at the vet is going back into the local community and the New Zealand economy.”
The acquisition by offshore corporates has largely gone under-the-radar. The original owner may stay working in the clinic for a period, and the name and branding of the clinic does not usually change.
“From the clients’ perspective, they often wouldn’t know,” says Dr Merchant.
“For those Kiwis who prefer to support locally-owned businesses, IndieVets is helping to make this a bit more transparent.”
He says the main goal of IndieVets is to help level the playing field for locally-owned vets – by giving them access to group buying power, shared resources and support.
“Running a modern vet clinic comes with ever-increasing challenges. These vets are effectively running their own mini-hospital, equipped with very expensive technology; and unlike human GPs, they receive no government funding. We’re here to support them into the future, so the next generation of veterinarians can continue to run a successful business in their local community.”
Dr Megan Alderson, co-owner of The Strand Veterinarian in Auckland’s Parnell, is one of the first members to join IndieVets.
“We love being independent…our clinic has its own unique culture, and our clients really appreciate that. It’s also important to us that we have the freedom do things our own way, which includes setting our own high standards and protocols when it comes to caring for our patients.”
In the future, IndieVets will provide a succession-planning model for owners who want to sell to the next generation of local vets, rather than a corporate.
Dr Oliver Reeve is co-owner of Onewa Road Veterinary Hospital on Auckland’s North Shore, with fellow veterinarian Dr Richard McKee.
“Over the past 15 years we’ve built a thriving practice in our community, and we’re proud to be successfully independent. The IndieVets collective is a way for us to share resources and stay connected with other like-minded business owners.”