USDA: Valley Dealing with Shortage of Veterinarians
HARLINGEN – The United States Department of Agriculture is labeling the Rio Grande Valley as having a shortage of veterinarians in public practice for the fiscal year of 2017.
This means veterinarians serving federal, state and local agencies are becoming more difficult to hire.
This shortage was brought to the attention of the USDA by the Texas Animal Health Commission.
In a report, they state they've been having a difficult time hiring veterinarians for their office in the Valley, saying they've tried multiple times.
The Humane Society in Harlingen said it's an issue facing the entire Valley.
"It really doesn't come as a surprise to us we know that there is a veterinarian shortage," said Kim Warunek the Harlingen Humane Society executive director.
Right now, the Harlingen Humane Society, which sees roughly 7,000 animals a year, does not have a full-time veterinarian on staff.
"To have a vet on full-time it would make our lives a lot easier," said Warunek.
To make up for this Warunek says they work with four local vets who rotate in and out. Even then she says it's not enough.
"Ultimately, we would like to run surgeries five days a week, but unfortunately we don't have that ability, so to be able to get one or two more vets into rotation, that would make our lives a lot easier," said Warunek.
Warunek said this issue of a lack of veterinarians in the Valley has been going on for a while.
She believes the reason for this is because the pay in the Valley just doesn't compare to other places in the state.
"Newly graduated veterinarians want to go to Houston or Dallas or San Antonio, where there are a lot more clinics and a lot more availability for them to get the pay that they need to get coming out of vet school," said Warunek.
Because of this, Warunek says pet owners in many cases have to travel far in order to get help for their furry friends.
"It's a struggle, we have a lot of counties down here that don't have veterinary services at all," said Warunek.
Unless the pay is matched with other cities in the state, Warunek said this problem will continue to exist for the Valley.
To get veterinarians to work in counties with shortages, the USDA offers incentives from loan repayment to grants.