By Brett Yates, CEO Michelson Found Animals
One of the starkest issues facing the U.S. pet care industry today is a shortage of veterinarians and veterinary technicians. In fact, by 2030,¹ we will need 40,000 vets and 133,000 vet techs to meet the needs of our nation’s companion animals.
Consequently, it is not unusual to hear of pet parents waiting weeks for an appointment with their local veterinarian. This can lead to worsening conditions that then may require emergency care. Unfortunately, it is also not unusual to hear of wait times lasting upwards of 10 hours, or pets being turned away at emergency clinics unless their condition is truly life-threatening. This strain on the system became apparent during the pandemic, when pet adoptions skyrocketed, but the systemic issues predated COVID.
Having worked in animal welfare for many years, this author has watched the veterinary shortage become exacerbated to a breaking point, having knock-on effects in other aspects of the industry. While there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel, we should first ask ourselves: How did we get here?
How we got here
At the core of the veterinary shortage is the classic issue of supply and demand. Pet ownership has been increasing since before the pandemic and, today, 70 percent of U.S. households² own a pet.
The supply of skilled animal care professionals has not kept pace with the uptick in pet ownership. One reason for this is lack of opportunity: there are only 33 accredited veterinary schools in the U.S. (for comparison’s sake, there are 155 medical schools³). These highly competitive programs admit, on average, between 10 to 15 percent of applicants (medical schools accept around 42 percent), and the debt graduates carry is not commensurate with their starting salaries.
Read more commentary about the veterinarian shortage here.
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