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Nationwide veterinarian shortage felt in South Carolina

South Carolina animal service officials say the shortage could lead to a domino effect.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — According to Columbia animal health care officials, millions of pets could go without medical care as the nation faces a shortage of veterinarians.

"Last year, we saw 1,300 pets on our mobile vaccine clinic," said Denise Wilkinson, Pawmetto Lifeline's CEO. "Last weekend, we saw 635 pets. The only reason why we didn't see as many pets we saw last year is because we don't have the vets anymore."

"Even before COVID, recent studies showed South Carolina ranked 46th out of 50 states in the number veterinarians per thousand in population," explained Boyd Parr, state veterinarian.

Parr is the state veterinarian at Clemson University, and he serves on the South Carolina Association of Veterinarians executive committee. Parr says South Carolina not having a veterinarian school for students to get their doctors' degrees could be adding to the shortages.

Clemson has a veterinarian program, but students have to go to out-of-state institutions like the University of Georgia or Tuskegee because they can only get their undergrad in pre-veterinary medicine here. 

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"We need more seats for South Carolina students in vet school," Parr said. "Short of building a veterinarian school in South Carolina, which is very expensive. Maybe that's what we need to do. There has been some discussion in the legislature. Georgia's class now is about 120 students. What they do is they have a South Carolina pool of applicants, and those seats are designated to South Carolina residents. So, we are ensured those seats."

Pawmetto Lifeline's CEO says the shortage could lead to a domino effect. Wilkinson says she is asking the state for a short-term solution.

"Can we expand the role of our pet techs so they can have more authority to provide services without direct oversight from a vet," asked Wilkinson.

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