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Vet school remains possibility for W.Va.

Dr. Jessica Grady, right, examines a cat Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, at Dunbar Animal Hospital in...
Dr. Jessica Grady, right, examines a cat Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, at Dunbar Animal Hospital in Dunbar, W.Va.
Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 6:11 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Dr. George Seiler manages a veterinary practice. He offers a starting salary that is higher than average, yet, he told lawmakers that he still struggles to find the help he needs.

“A lot of us are working 12-, 14-hour days,” he told lawmakers. “There have been emergency clinics in the state that have shut down because they cannot find veterinarians to work for them after hours.”

Lawmakers met Tuesday to discuss potential solutions. At the top of their list: the creation of a veterinary school. It would be a first for West Virginia.

Presenters voiced their support for a feasibility study. They also suggested short-term options, including debt relief for new veterinarians that move to West Virginia and the expansion of tuition assistance for students forced to study out of state.

Delegate Dana Ferrell, R-Kanawha, believes that many support the opening of a veterinary school, yet, he knows lawmakers must proceed in a responsible manner.

“When we look at it, it shouldn’t be just the cost, the initial costs of setting up and operating, but what is the return on that investment over the long haul,” he said.

And the return could be huge.

The state Department of Agriculture touched on a need for veterinarians who treat bees, cattle, chickens and horses -- each representing dollar signs for the state’s economy.

“Large animal practice is demanding,” said Jennifer Greenlief, general counsel for the state Department of Agriculture. “It requires those nightly, overnight calls when there’s emergencies.”

Lawmakers will meet again in January with hopes to adopt a short- and long-term recommendation for the full Legislature.

If the Legislature votes to move forward early next year, those studying the issue believe it could another eight to nine years before a vet school could open its doors in West Virginia.

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