Expanding veterinary care in Arkansas

Person wearing blue scrubs and a stethoscope holding a tabby kitten
Veterinarian shortage spurs legislation to help more pets.
By Kelli Harmon

The veterinarian shortage across the United States is real, and pets in shelters are especially feeling the pinch. But there’s a ray of hope in one state — in the form of a bill that recently passed in Arkansas. HB 1182 will expand access to veterinary care by empowering veterinary technicians to perform additional procedures, such as administering rabies vaccines.

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Animals are often stuck in shelters because of a lack of access to veterinary care, and Arkansas has the lowest number of veterinarians per capita in the nation. That’s why Best Friends’ advocacy team worked with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture last fall to have veterinary access legislation drafted and prepared for the 2023 session.

Few states currently allow the simple, safe rabies vaccine to be administered by anyone other than a licensed veterinarian. The goal was to make a lifesaving impact in Arkansas by expanding services that veterinary technician specialists can provide, enabling veterinarians to better serve clients and animals.

Passed on the first try, the bill is a win for animals and the people who care for them. “This will be a major timesaver for veterinarians and allow many animals to be treated more efficiently,” says Eric Swafford, senior manager of Best Friends campaign strategy. The legislation is innovative not just for Arkansas, but for the rest of the country, as it may serve as a model for similar laws.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2023 issue of Best Friends magazine. Want more good news? Become a member and get stories like this six times a year.

Person using a stethoscope to listen to the chest of a husky dog
Photo by Sarah Ause Kichas

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