Shortage of veterinarians in South Carolina may have solution

One expert says South Carolina is probably one of the only states in the South without an in-state college of veterinary medicine.

CAMDEN, SC – The shortage of veterinary services is a nationwide crisis with local implications Now, local colleges and universities like Clemson are looking at ways to solve the problem.

“I’ve never seen more practices in South Carolina desperate; trying to find more collaborators,” said Boyd Parr, chair of the Clemson Veterinary College Steering Committee and a retired veterinarian.

A shortage of vets has put pressure on people’s ability to see pets promptly, he said.

“There are over 1,400 veterinarians licensed by the LLR Board of Vet Examiners with South Carolina addresses,” Parr said. “That includes active and retired people. That’s a very low number for a fast-growing state like South Carolina.”

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Parr says it has become a problem over time that first affected large animals and livestock and has now trickled down to small animal practices in metropolitan areas.

One of the large animal veterinarians affected by the shortage is Nicole Cunningham who works for South Carolina Equine Associates. He said the number of applicants has decreased in recent years.

“Every time we’ve had a position open for a new vet, the number of applicants has dropped dramatically,” Cunningham said. “So, we’ve gone from, you know, choosing between five and six candidates and applying to only one or two candidates over a two-year period.”

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In addition to animals, the shortage is also felt among consumers.

“I’ve noticed that routine veterinary care is taking too long, and my fear is, oh my gosh, if there’s too much of a vet shortage, I won’t be able to take care of my horses.” Camden resident Linda Franklin-Moore said.

With two horses, three cats and a dog, she was concerned about the lack of vet access and, like many, wondered how it could be addressed.

But, according to Parr, one thing missing from South Carolina could play a role.

“South Carolina is probably one of the only states in the South that doesn’t have an in-state college of veterinary medicine,” Parr said. “So, with the support of some members of the Legislature, that’s what’s being explored. If we have a school of medicine here, in SC, the number of people who tend to stay here is much higher.”

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Parr said that the school is still in its early stages but the prospects look promising. The state has increased the number of seats in out-of-state schools from 26 to 46 for those seeking entry into veterinary medicine. The option allows South Carolina residents to receive the equivalent of in-state tuition at an out-of-state school.

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