Opposition to online pet care is unrealistic and protectionist

In Colorado, we love our pets, so it’s personal when the care they need is out of reach.  A recent Colorado State University study found that veterinary care is unattainable for a third of pet owners.

This is why a group of animal welfare advocates have come together to lead ballot initiatives 144 and 145. These measures will safely increase access to veterinary care in Colorado by expanding the use of telehealth and by introducing a career pathway for a master’s-level veterinary professional associate (VPA) position, similar to a physician assistant in human medicine.

In a recent op-ed, state politician Karen McCormick, raised concerns about these two ballot initiatives. We are a group of veterinarians with a lifelong commitment to the well-being of animals and the community. We are leading this measure and feel compelled to offer our perspective on why these measures are crucial for the health of our pets. Initiatives 144 and 145 are critical steps to safely increasing veterinary care for pets in Colorado and addressing the dire shortage of veterinary professionals.

Animal Health Economics estimates a shortage of nearly 15,000 veterinarians will exist in the U.S. by 2030, leaving as many as 75 million pets without veterinary care. This is largely the result of a veterinary workforce crisis. There are simply too few veterinary professionals to meet the demand. A study from the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) found that there were 2,000-3,000 more open jobs than veterinarians available to hire.

Ballot Initiative 144 increases access to veterinary telemedicine, allowing pet owners to create a new relationship with a veterinarian and receive care virtually when appropriate. This same model has been successful in human healthcare, and was passed nearly unanimously in Florida, Arizona and California last year. Rep. McCormick claims to have passed a bill (HB 24-1048) on behalf of the veterinary trade association as an “expansion” of tele-technologies. What she fails to share is that her bill eliminated options for many pet owners to access veterinary care virtually.

Even Gov. Jared Polis stated his disappointment in this new restriction when the bill passed, saying he was concerned that it “creates additional impediments to veterinary care, especially in rural areas.” Initiative 144 repairs this damage and truly expands telehealth.

Ballot Initiative 145 creates a career pathway for a veterinary “PA”. These professionals will have a master’s degree in veterinary clinical care and must work under the supervision of a licensed Colorado veterinarian. Initiative 145 requires robust training from a leading veterinary school in the country. It also empowers the State Board of Veterinary Medicine to create licensing and other regulatory requirements. Initiative 145 leads to increased capacity in veterinary clinics, particularly in rural communities, while driving down costs for pet owners.