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A new push to address California's crisis-level veterinary shortage

AB-1237 aims to attract veterinarians to work in the state by helping to pay for their student loans.

SAN DIEGO — If your pets are sick or suffering from an injury, you may notice it’s getting harder to make a vet appointment. There is a shortage of veterinarians and AB 1237 aims to address the issue.

"It's kind of hard to get into a vet office right now. They all have like 30-day waiting periods so it's really tough," said Jocelyn, a dog owner in San Diego.

The vet shortage is a concern for many pet owners and puts pressure on understaffed clinics and shelters.

"It's one of the most serious things we've faced in animal welfare," said Dr. Gary Weitzman, the President and CEO of San Diego Humane Society.

He said there are a few reasons we're seeing the shortage.

"Most of these vets as students acquire about $180,000 in debt on average. Pair that with the cost of living in California and it's very hard to keep them in the state," he said.

The shelters are suffering the most. Weitzman said 60% of vet positions at shelters are vacant.

"There are hundreds of shelters, especially in the Central Valley that don't have vets anywhere for 100 miles and that's the big emergency we're having," he said.

The bill hopes to fill these vacant vet positions. It would use state and private funding to pay up to $150,000 in student loan debt relief for vets. In exchange, they'd agree to work in an underserved area of California for at least five years.

"Taking care of your pets is like taking care of your children so I'm all for it," said dog owner Joe Canas.

The Humane Society said the shortage has also led to much longer wait times for animals in shelters because they can't get the care they need right away. 

WATCH RELATED: Therapy dogs from Helen Woodward Animal Center make a visit to the ICU healthcare workers (Feb. 2023).


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