A shortage of horse vets in the US has led to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) forming a commission to work on retaining and recruiting more veterinarians to equine practice.
Many areas are facing a shortage of equine practitioners to provide veterinary care to horses and other equids. Describing the situation as an equine welfare issue, the AAEP says the problem will further intensify without action to address the diminishing number of equine veterinarians.
The Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability is one of the largest initiatives by the AAEP. It will be led by AAEP-member volunteers with work focused on five key areas: compensation, strategies for effective emergency coverage, veterinary practice culture, internships, and supporting the growth and development of the equine veterinary student.
AAEP President Dr Emma Read said the equine veterinary profession was in crisis.
“In order to transform equine practice, we must address the pain points which are driving exceptional horse doctors away. Without change, future veterinary care for our nation’s horses will be greatly jeopardized,” Read said.
According to AAEP data, about 1.3% of new veterinary graduates enter equine practice directly each year, and another 4.5% pursue further training in equine internship positions. But within five years, 50% of all these veterinarians leave for small animal practice or quit veterinary medicine altogether.
The primary reasons are burnout because of the personal demands of the profession and personal struggle with lower starting salaries for equine practice when compared to companion animal practice. Many new veterinarians begin their careers with more than $200,000 in student loan debt.
While developing solutions to the five key factors affecting the sustainability of equine practice, the Commission will ensure that the needs of one and two-doctor practices are carefully considered; about half of AAEP members operate practices of this size. Outreach to horse owners and equine industry partners will create expanded awareness and yield additional perspective.
“Every person in the profession has a role to play in its transformation,” Read said. “This is one of the largest initiatives ever undertaken by the AAEP and we look forward to collaborating with equine veterinarians and those who help support them in all facets of practice to change the numbers.”
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