Vet Care Industry Consolidation in Connecticut
created by Ethan Brill-Cass, Caleb Freiman, and Terra Hoyt
To view an interactive version of this project, click here. Unfortunately the webmap linked here has lost some of the formatting that you can see in the image shared above.
Mapping the ownership and consolidation of Connecticut’s veterinary hospitals has both symbolic and practical significance. From the preliminary map our group has produced for this project, we found that nearly half of all locations whose ownership we verified were consolidated by a larger corporation. Further, we can see that these consolidated veterinary hospitals are clustering near one another, from our data collection process we recognize that this is often the result of a single consolidator establishing a local town or county-wide monopoly on animal care. Taking the most conservative estimate, assuming all hospitals with currently unknown ownership are local and that all hospitals identified as local are correctly identified, approximately 25% of all veterinary hospitals in Connecticut are consolidated. National estimates are nearly identical, also at 25%. If this consistency holds for other estimates made by the same consulting firms, it’s possible that these 25% of vet hospitals that are consolidated account for over 50% of all veterinary care, revenue, and client visits in Connecticut as they do at the national level (VIN). This is the map’s symbolic meaning, though conveyed through statistics they outline a snapshot of the consolidation of veterinary care in Connecticut.
The map also has practical value. As we confirmed in this process, it is challenging if not impossible to discern the ownership status of a vet hospital, even after spending several hours gaining familiarity with vet-specific web design companies. From our research, this is the first map or even attempt to list all veterinary hospitals in Connecticut and by doing so provides consumers with vital information and greater choices. From the beginning, Google searches for vet hospitals have inherent biases which privilege companies who can spend money on search engine optimization, having a more complete list can help overcome this. Further, being consolidated as a vet hospital comes with certain implications, often less consistent staffing, variance in prescription policy, and higher in-house pricing. Giving pet owners the information needed to make a well-informed decision on veterinary care is more important now than ever as spending on pet care is rising rapidly.
These pet owners, currently in the dark about operations at their local vet clinics, are one of the two major sets of primary stakeholders. Further, we can consider this group of stakeholders to include both pet owners and their pets since the quality and availability of care have the most significant impact on the animals themselves. While the preliminary map provides valuable information, it lacks a qualitative component that brings forward the tangible impacts of these veterinary hospitals’ consolidation. To center and uplift the lived experiences of these stakeholders, our map would best be placed on a website and tied to a Google sheet where it can act as a constantly updating reservoir of information. This would mean pet owners could submit text describing their experiences with care throughout an ownership transition as well as contributing to the underlying information by indicating the closure or transition of a hospital. When clicking on a hospital then the pop-ups would have more than descriptive information, including text snippets similar to Google reviews that are better filtered for relevance and coherence.
The other major group of stakeholders is veterinarians. Though the goal is generally similar to that of pet owners, centering and uplifting their lived experiences, achieving this goal is more challenging for veterinary professionals. As we found in our review of previous research, veterinary hospitals, especially those consolidated by a large corporation, are increasing the frequency of gag clauses in contracts. This makes it impossible for many veterinarians to share their experiences as freely as a client might as they would face professional retribution and legal action. Where we could collect client experiences en masse and simply validate them while indicating their status in the validation process (much like the Texas Freedom Colonies Project does), we think it would be best to instead host with the map a curated selection of anonymous interview quotes from veterinary professionals. In addition to establishing a connection between this project and community stakeholders, one other revision would be necessary for any further adaptation of this map. This revision is the expanded collection of conversion dates, the year or month a practice went from locally owned to consolidated. This would allow us and our audience to make a more accurate comparison to national trends and better understand the possible futures of this trend. The only barrier to achieving this goal is the time constraint of this project, which could be achieved, with more intensive and extended data collection.
- Ackerman Group. “Vet Clinics Are Selling to Corporate: Here’s Why.” Ackerman Group, 24 June 2022, ackerman-group.com/why-are-so-many-veterinary-hospitals-selling-to-corporate/.
- Bimbatti Mattos, Luiz Fernando. “Private Mergers and Acquisitions in the United States: A High-Level Overview of Veterinary Health Industry Deals and Its Recent Consolidation Wave.” Journal of Animal and Environmental Law, vol. 11, no. 1, 2019.
- “CVMA History.” CVMA History | Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association, www.ctvet.org/about/cvma-history.
- “History of the AVMA.” American Veterinary Medical Association, www.avma.org/about/history-avma.
- Lamberg, Erica. “Trends of Old-School Veterinary Practices Being Bought by National Companies.” FOXBusiness, 16 Dec. 2022, www.foxbusiness.com/healthcare/trends-old-school-veterinary-practices-bought-by-national-companies.
- “Pandemic Hastens Ongoing Trend in Veterinary Consolidation.” VIN News Service, https://news.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=210&Id=10652228#:~:text=%22That%27s%20a%20bit%2%200of%20an,now%20owned%20by%20corporate%20consolidators.
- “Private Equity Snatches up Veterinarian Clinics amid Puppy Boom.” Pitchbook.com, pitchbook.com/news/articles/pe-deals-veterinary-clinics-pet-care.
- Wilke, Logan. “Leashed: How Veterinarian Noncompetes Accelerated Industry Consolidation.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2022.