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Veterinarian shortage impacting pet owners across Maricopa County

Posted at 8:35 AM, Jun 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-21 11:35:11-04

MESA, AZ — Answering phones, filling prescriptions and preparing for surgery. It's another busy day inside AZPetVet's Mesa hospital. In the middle of it all is Traver Reinhart's 3-year-old Corgi, Sylvester, getting his yearly vaccines.

"I expect them to be a month out," he said. "Because last time we came it was two months out but that was because it was right in the middle of the pandemic so I kind of expected it."

Kelli Evans, Veterinary Recruitment and Engagement Manager at AZPetVet, says basic wellness routines often need to be booked weeks or even months in advance. She says part of the reason is that the number of appointments is exceeding the number of vets in Maricopa County.

"We may have a client that lives in Mesa and they're going to one of our Glendale clinics to get their pet seen," she said. "So, people are driving across the Valley to make sure their pets are getting the care they need."

A study from Mars Veterinary Health found over 40,000 additional vets are needed across the country to meet demand by 2030, putting 17 million dogs and 38 million cats at risk of not receiving care.

Evans says to keep up, they've extended their hours and are trying their best to see more pets a day while still giving them the attention they need.

"It's frustrating. I think it's challenging. I think it's different than what they've expected of their vets. Over the course of owning a pet, it is different. It has changed," Evans said. "We're hearing the frustration. We want to find solutions to make sure the pets are getting taken care of."

Some of those solutions include more vet schools and incentivizing new vets to practice in Arizona.

In fact, a bill led by the Arizona Humane Society would give veterinary students $100,000 in student loan forgiveness to those who work in Arizona for at least four years. A spokesperson for the Arizona Humane Society tells ABC15 the bill passed the House and the Senate and is now waiting to be signed as part of next year's state budget.