The goal of a recently announced science-business partnership is to prevent the shortage of veterinary medicine and ensure America’s animals have adequate access to care.

Appalachian State University (App State) and Banfield Pet Hospital are launching a four-year online degree program for licensed veterinary technicians (LVTs). The offer is designed to meet market demand for skilled veterinary professionals, particularly in rural communities, the groups said.

The partnership follows a Banfield study that found that an estimated 75 million pets in the US may not have access to adequate veterinary care by 2030, partly due to a lack of animal health professionals.

“App State excels at developing visionary academic programs that address the skills shortage in rural communities and help advance industry standards,” added Sheri Everts, App State Chancellor.

“With graduation and licensing rates well above the national average, our university is in a unique position to develop and deploy a signature program that will help advance the profession, strengthen the role of LVT, and meet market demand for qualified people to satisfy rural veterinary professionals. ”

Much like healthcare nurses, LVTs can work with a doctor to give patient vaccinations and check vital signs.

“When veterinarians practice at the top of their license, hospitals get the best results: committed customers and a unified team that delivers world-class care,” said Daniel Aja, DVM, chief veterinary relations and transformation officer for Banfield. “In support of our goal of A Better World for Pets, we believe that the profession must use all veterinarians to the best of their ability to ensure pets receive the care they need.”

There were more than 110,000 LVT jobs in the U.S. in 2020, with a projected increase of nearly 20 percent over the next five years, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Industry reports predict a gap in the LVT supply of more than 50,000 by 2029, adds Banfield.

“Banfield is committed to empowering and recognizing the role of LVTs as critical members of the veterinary team,” said Dr. Aye. “We are excited to partner with App State and invest in this unique program that will benefit veterinarians, pets and the wider industry as the demand for pet care continues to grow.”

The program is expected to start in autumn 2022.