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Lawmakers working on bill to address veterinarian shortage in Arizona

For those in need of medical care for a pet, finding a veterinarian can be a challenge,

PHOENIX — For those in need of medical care for a pet, finding a veterinarian can be a challenge. State lawmakers are working on a bill to help fix the veterinarian shortage in Arizona.

Becoming a veterinarian is not an easy nor cheap venture. One veterinarian 12 News spoke to said he figures the average cost be approximately $200,000 for some students during their seven to eight years of schooling.

“So, most of those students generally have four years before they get into veterinary school,” said Dr. Steven Hansen, a veterinarian, and the CEO of Arizona Humane Society. “The program is either three years full around or four years with summers.”

Help may be on the way

But Senate Bill 1271 hopes to make it a bit more financially feasible to become a vet here in Arizona, and more attractive to stay here. The Arizona Veterinarian Assistance Program will pay back a large chunk of the cost of veterinarian schooling.

If a new graduate works for four years in the state, and at least two years in an area designated by the United States Department of Agriculture as having a shortage,  a non-profit animal shelter or a municipal facility, they’ll receive up to $100,000 back to pay off their school debt at the end of their four-year term.

Dr. Hansen says it’s a rewarding career with immediate openings.

“There are substantial openings. We generally have 12 veterinarians on our staff at the Arizona humane society, and we typically have two openings. We are hoping that this will allow us to fill those openings and then also add additional staff," said Dr. Hansen.

Not there yet

Before SB 1271 lands on Governor Doug Ducey’s desk, it must first pass the State House of Representatives. Dr. Hansen is optimistic about the bill’s future and the impact that it will have.

“The Arizona Veteran Loan Assistance Program is going to give a really needed boost to new graduates,” said Dr. Hansen. “And it will allow those of us that employ veterinarians to retain those new graduates. They’ll provide services to the Valley that are so important, especially in our shelters such as the Arizona Humane Society's Trauma Hospital.”

If passed, $5,000,000 will come out of the State’s general fund to pay for the new program.

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