NEW JERSEY – The Assembly Agriculture and Food Security Committee on Thursday advanced a bill to address New Jersey’s shortage of veterinarians who treat livestock and other large animals.
The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Alex Sauickie, says it is an investment in the Garden State’s farming future and ensures rural New Jersey can protect the health of their horses and cattle, as well as residents.
“New Jersey has more than 50,000 horses, ponies, and cows – all of which require specialized veterinary medicine services. Unfortunately, most vets choose to treat small animals, because it is often more lucrative and they have expensive degrees they need to pay off,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. “The sustainability of our farming communities depends on the availability of large animal vets, so it is critical that New Jersey takes a common sense approach to addressing the shortage.”
The bill (A323) establishes a school loan repayment program to incentivize veterinary school graduates to practice in New Jersey for at least five years in a designated underserved area. In return for a five-year commitment, veterinarians practicing full-time at a state-approved site could be reimbursed for up to 100% of their school loan expenses.
“Coupled with Rowan University’s new veterinary school, my bill will make it more financially viable for New Jersey students interested in treating large animals to choose that area of practice,” Sauickie said.
Last year, Rowan University announced plans to open a school of veterinary medicine. It plans to welcome its first class of students in fall 2025. Currently, students wishing to pursue a doctor of veterinary medicine degree must leave the state to attend one of the nation’s 33 accredited schools.
“Large animal veterinarians are critical to the health of not only livestock, but also humans. In addition to performing surgeries and herd checks, they monitor for disease and educate clients on food safety, including appropriate antibiotic use,” Sauickie said. “Having more large animal veterinarians in New Jersey will benefit all residents.”
The bill appropriates $500,000 from the general fund to the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority to administer the loan redemption program.