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Arkansas non-profits and urgent care clinics continue to deal with vet shortage

Veterinary clinics across the state, including non-profits and urgent care clinics, continue to deal with challenges presented by the nationwide vet shortage.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Veterinary clinics in Arkansas continue to deal with the nationwide vet shortage, which is making it more difficult to take in and care for animals.

Arkansans For Animals is the longest-running low-cost spay and neuter clinic in the state. According to Executive Director Mariam Hillard, the organization plays a big role in the community and the vet shortage is making the day-to-day operation more challenging.

"It is very difficult for a lot of people to even get appointments," Hillard said.

One key group that's feeling the impact is low-income pet owners. Hillard said the vet shortage can be problematic because some people can't afford to take their animals elsewhere.

"Since we opened this particular clinic, we've provided over 40,000 spays and neuters low-cost spays and neuters," Hillard said. "Each year, we also try and provide wellness services."

Now, she's searching for a full-time vet to help them stay on pace with all the animals coming in. 

"There is always a chance that we would have to close if we cannot provide enough services and keep those doors open," Hillard said. "Now really is not the time to panic."

Veterinary urgent care clinics also fill a significant need in the community, and over at Out West, hiring is a struggle.

"We're open as much as we can, depending on what those doctors can work," Out West Practice Manager Stephanie Dungey said.

After nearly a year of operation, Dungey said they haven't been able to be open 24 hours like originally planned. 

"That was a lovely goal and is still our goal," Dungey said. "We just haven't known to find overnight doctors and it's not only us... emergency rooms in town as well as all over the state."

Dungey doesn't expect it to get better overnight, but said that a veterinary medical school in Arkansas could help.

"At least it's a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel," Dungey said.

As we've previously reported, Lyon College has plans in the works to build a veterinary school in downtown Little Rock.

There's no word on when the school will open.

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