Business

Vets4Pets to close Stormont clinic as Northern Ireland is hard hit by chain's overhaul

Pets at Home has closed its Vets4Pets clinic in Craigavon, which will be followed today by the practice in Stormont and next week by Ballymena, with around 30 jobs impacted
Gary McDonald Business Editor

ANOTHER veterinary practice operating under the Vets4Pets brand is set to close in Northern Ireland today - the second of three due to be axed by the end of this month.

All 10 staff at the Stormont branch in east Belfast are set to lose their jobs as part of the move by its parent company Pets at Home.

It plans to buy out 55 of its 471 joint venture pet practices across the UK and will put around 30 of those under review for possible closure as part of an overhaul of the division.

And Northern Ireland seems set to be the hardest hit region, with the Vets4pets clinic at Craigavon shutting last week, Stormont going today and Ballymena following on April 25, with fears that others among the remaining eight could be impacted.

The move comes after Pets at Home announced a dramatic slump in performance, with pre-tax profits crashing by more than 80 per cent as its bottom-line was hit by £29m in costs from the vet practice changes.

The company's chief executive Peter Pritchard said the overhaul of the business was not down to a poor performance, but the need to "rebalance" the vet chain after rapid expansion.

The currently cuts will see around 300 jobs go while pet owners will lose their registered practice, affecting up to 60,000 clients and more than 120,000 pets.

Concerned pet owners have been directed to the generic message on the website of their various practices directing them to a portal to transfer their pet records to a new clinic.

One concerned dog owner told the Irish News: "No explanation is given for closing the practices and many pet owners will now be faced with having no vet.

"They must now race to register with a new practice which may result in longer travel times, difficulties keeping pets on long-term medications and potential problems during emergency situations.

"Many of these practices have been trading for several years and the bond between vet and pet will be completed severed. This is a worrying time for many pet owners, without even a basic reason given by the company."

He added: "The closures will have a knock on effect on the local communities due to financial damage to local suppliers and businesses. The remaining 16 practices of the 30 identified for closure are likely to be named soon, but these are worrying times."

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