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Veterinarians in rural, northern BC treating three times as many large animals than urban counterparts

Calls for a veterinary training program at UNBC’s Prince George campus are picking up again.

According to a joint report from the BC Catllemen’s Association and several partners, the ratio of large animals to veterinarians in rural and northern BC is between eight and nine thousand animals per vet – roughly triple the rate seen in urban areas.

BC Cattlemen’s Association President, Brian Thomas told Vista Radio the crisis is now becoming an animal welfare issue.

“I mean, if you don’t have a large animal vet here in the vicinity to help you with these emergencies it’s not very good for the animals.”

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“You have to have a relationship with your vet and they have to come out and eyeball your cattle and they are not just giving you a vaccine for no reason. That’s getting harder to do to as it’s becoming an animal health and welfare issue too. It’s getting harder and harder to get these vets.

Thomas added while having 40 provincially funded seats at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon is nice, it doesn’t provide an immediate fix.

“It’s a long-term solution but we still have the same problem of the shortage of vets and stuff like that,”

Conversely, it’s only adding to the large appetite livestock operators have for a BC-based program, which they would like to see at UNBC’s PG campus.

“If we have a college centralized in Prince George – these students are closer to home and family and they would probably do better.”

Some of the partners related to the report were the Regional District’s Bulkley Nechako and Fraser Fort George.

To give you an idea as to how dire the situation is in our area, after-hours veterinary services in Prince George were eliminated last July in order to ease the burden on an already overworked group of dedicated professionals.

This included the Prince George Urgent Care Group, which consists of Hart Family Veterinary Clinic, Prince George Veterinary Hospital, Ospika Animal Hospital, Murdoch Veterinary Clinic, College Heights Veterinary Clinic, and Birchwood Veterinary Clinic will only be available for emergency care until 10 pm seven days per week.

For pet owners who may encounter a life-threatening situation, the only after-hours option will be able to access the Vet Triage website where they can connect virtually with a technician or vet.

However, if further assistance is required, a lengthy trip to places like Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, or Edmonton may be needed in order to receive 24-hour emergency care.

Furthermore, the PG Humane Society noted in March now has a waiting list to accept surrendered animals. Last week, they announced plans to develop a new shelter and clinic during a city council meeting.

The economic impact generated by veterinarians in BC is 2.4 billion dollars.

In addition, BC’s livestock sector contributes about 1.5 billion dollars of gross domestic product to the economy each year.

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