Veterinary students getting hands-on experience through a new program at the Arizona Humane Society

The shelter is partnering with the University of Arizona as a veterinarian shortage continues across the state.
The non-profit thinks about 100 students will complete the program in the next year.
The non-profit thinks about 100 students will complete the program in the next year.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 7:14 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- As a veterinarian shortage continues across our state, veterinary students are getting a brand new opportunity to work in Arizona animal shelters. It’s a hands-on experience that will hopefully prepare them for the reality of the field.

Arizona’s Family shadowed two University of Arizona students who are part of the new program through the Arizona Humane Society. Sarah Lindquist and Camila Rocha are in their final year of vet school. They work in rotations, often spending up to 40 hours a week at the shelter.

They’re learning shelter medicine is much different than a traditional veterinary practice. In a shelter setting, you’re caring for animals who don’t have owners or advocates, or who may have been neglected. Lindquist and Rocha work in every aspect of the shelter from spaying and neutering pets, to checking in on foster animals and assisting in the Second Chance Animal Trauma Hospital. That hospital sees about 11,000 pets every year for some form of treatment.

Lindquist says it’s been an enlightening process so far, exposing them to different opportunities in the veterinary field. The most eye-opening part of the rotations so far has been shadowing the field crews who actually go out into our community to save animals from hoarding situations, the heat, and more.

“You can already see the animals start to see relief when they feel the air conditioning,” Lindquist said. “And it was really cool and something none of us were expecting that we would get to be a part of and learn about. But it’s a huge part of what they do here.”

“Dr. Thompson has actually showed us the statistics of how long an animal stays there,” Rocha said. “And it’s about four to six days I think. And I was completely surprised by that.”

The students say one of the big hurdles of veterinary school is the cost. You may remember this year a bill was passed in Arizona to create a special program to combat those costs. It will reimburse up to $100,000 dollars in student loans for veterinarians who work in the state for at least four years. Those vets will also be required to work at a city, county, or non-profit shelter for two years.

READ MORE: Lawmakers introduce student loan forgiveness bill to combat veterinarian shortage.

“I think the more hands-on experience students get and real-life experience working with the populations that they may be serving in the future, helps prepare them better,” said Dr. Lai-Ting Torres with AHS. “And the better prepared they are for the realism of what the career entails, I think which will prevent burnout. Which is a large issue in our field as well.”

The non-profit thinks about 100 students will complete the program in the next year.