Veterinary industry faces high demand and shortage of staff

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a job growth rate of 17% for veterinarians by 2026, more than twice as fast as all other occupations.

BEAUMONT, Texas — Veterinary clinics across the country are being pushed to their limits and trying to keep up with demand.

Pet adoption rates have skyrocketed over the past decade. With so much time spent at home during the pandemic, animals are getting more love and attention than ever before.

“The last twenty years have really shown a huge increase in this human-animal bond,” said Dr. Todd Westin, an associate veterinarian.

These days our pets are just another member of the family and owners are willing to spend more to keep them healthy, whether it’s a scan, X-rays, a surgery or physical therapy on an underwater treadmill.

Spending on veterinary care has increased from $13 billion in 2010 to around $32 billion in 2021.

“The human-animal bond has grown exponentially, and we just can’t keep pace as a profession,” said Brady Hanson, chief veterinarian and CEO of Neighborhood Veterinary Centers.

Brady Hanson takes on the challenge of keeping pace with a growing business.

“Trying to convince someone to move to this area when they don’t have family or loved ones here is quite difficult,” Brady Hanson said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a job growth rate of 17% for veterinarians by 2026, more than twice as fast as all other occupations.

Brady Hanson’s brother, Shay Hanson, is the CFO of Neighborhood Veterinary Centers.

“There’s such rapid growth in our industry right now, there aren’t enough vet schools and vet students to keep up with the needs,” Shay Hanson said.

In the United States and the Caribbean, there are only 32 schools with veterinary programs, and most graduate fewer than 200 students per year.

“The job market definitely has a lot more demand, and I think the supply of graduating veterinary students is low,” said Texas A&M Vet student Niko Garcia.

Until this year, Texas A&M was the only vet school in Texas, which means getting accepted isn’t easy.

“Texas A&M basically wants you to have a good 3.5 [GPA] and more fair to be considered,” Garcia said.

The Hanson brothers said that due to high demand, students who are successful in school have options.

“There’s a national shortage, so people can choose where they want to go and there’s always good supply, at least now,” Brady Hanson said.

“The signing bonuses keep getting bigger, some of the job offers they’re offering $25, $50, $75,000 in signing bonuses,” Shay Hanson said.

So there has never been a better time to become a veterinarian, but perhaps also never a harder time to become one as well.

“There’s a lot of passion involved, and when I interview people, like technicians and stuff, why do you want to work with and be in a vet clinic? The first thing they always say is ‘ I love animals, ‘and I say keep going because it’s not enough…’ Todd said.

Much of the business boom is attributed to the pandemic and owners spending more time with their pets only to notice a problem that requires veterinary examination.

As for a solution, more vet schools are opening across the United States, and Texas Tech enrolled its first class of vet students in 2021.

It can take four to five years for owners like the Hansons to see some relief.

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