SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – California pet owners will soon have another way to get veterinary care. A new bill just signed into law will allow vets virtual appointments.

A sick pet usually means a lengthy trip to the vet’s office – including a drive and time spent sitting in a waiting room. This new law will save you from all of that.

“They can be in front of a veterinarian in two minutes. Compare that to the emergency wait that can be hours,” said Jennifer Scarlett, CEO of the San Francisco SPCA. 

Scarlett says the organization has been in support of expanding veterinarian telemedicine for years. The new bill signed by Gov. Newsom will do just that. It allows vets to see new or existing patients for a wide range of issues.

Previously, vets could only see existing patients virtually for an issue after an in-person checkup for the same problem. Scarlett says there is a shortage of vets, but virtual appointments will allow more volume of patients, as well as easier access to care.

“For folks that live in very rural areas getting to a vet can take several hours, or if you live in the city and you’re housebound, or your cat doesn’t want to get in that box, or transportation is difficult, telemedicine is a godsend,” Scarlett said. 

A virtual video vet appointment is both for the owner to get information and for a vet to check out their furry patients in their natural habitat. Just by looking at the dog, vets can sometimes tell if the dog needs to come into the vet immediately, in the near future, or not at all.

“We can see how they interact with their owners, they’re certainly much calmer. But I think a lot of the value is being able to have a really in-depth conversation with the human in the equation,” said Christie Long, the Chief Medical officer with Modern Animal. 

Long, says these appointments won’t always replace an in-person visit, and there are guardrails in the bill to ensure pet owners can still get one.

“It requires that the veterinarian that is having the interaction still has a place where they can have the animal come into if it needs to be seen in person in a veterinary office,” she said. 

The new law goes into effect on January 1.