accredited colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States. The high cost of education assumed by U.S. students attending veterinary school outside the United States, whether accredited or not, necessitates that they will enter higherpaying practices such as companion-animal-exclusive so their educational debt can be served more readily.
The redirection of veterinary manpower from other sectors of the profession where service is sorely needed to the companion-animal sector is also apparently occurring as large animal practitioners are increasingly becoming mixed animal and companion-animal practitioners. Increases in the salaries of companion-animal practitioners would foster that redirection. However, these conditions may be diverting the veterinary workforce away from underserved, yet important sectors such as public health, food safety, rural practice, and biomedical research, among others.
Other Factors Affecting Demand in the Future
The assumptions that underlie the committee’s predicted need for a larger companion-animal workforce in the future must be considered in light of recent information showing the impact of the economic recession on companion-animal private practice. According to a recently published survey, the number of pet visits per DVM per week declined from 75 in 1997 to 66 in 2009 (Bayer Health Care, 2011). That information suggests that in spite of an increasing number of companion animals, owners are not seeking services at the same level as in the past. It remains to be seen whether this trend will persist when the economy improves.
There also is some indication that companion-animal practices are doing better at leveraging paraprofessional personnel. The number of veterinary technicians and assistants per DVM FTE increased from 1.5 in 2003 to 2.4 in 2009 among the survey participants in this study (Bayer Health Care, 2011).
In addition, despite the high educational debt load incurred when attending U.S. veterinary schools, and even higher debt incurred when attending non-U.S. schools,, the demand for enrollment is robust (AVMA, 2007c). While the annual applicant pool through the Veterinary Medical College Application Service remains steady, it is estimated that annually, at least 340 U.S. citizens are attending veterinary schools at Ross University, St. George’s University, and St. Matthews University alone (AAVMC, 2011). Precise data on the number of American students attending accredited and non-accredited veterinary schools outside the United States are not available; but 500-600 per year is a reasonable, yet conservative estimate. The number of Americans leaving the United States to obtain a veterinary education must be considered when analyzing enrollment demand and future workforce supply.
While some U.S. colleges of veterinary medicine have increased their capacity in recent years, they are still not meeting the demand. If capacity in U.S. veterinary colleges does not increase substantially, more and more of the com-