New veterinary school coming to Glendale

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Their lives are on the line and only a certain type of doctor can treat them. We explore the dangers facing our state's animals and what one university is doing to help.

Angus, an Asian water monitor, recently got a a check-up from Dr. Sharmie Johnson. She’s the chief veterinarian at the Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium in the West Valley.

“Sometimes you are the instrument that saves their life and it feels really good,” Johnson said.

Veterinarians like Johnson, those who care for animals at zoos or on farms and ranches, are getting harder to find.
 
“It's expected it's going to get worse down the road because more veterinarians are actually going into small-animal practice instead of large-animal practice,” Johnson explained.

It's a growing problem the doctor says leaves some animal owners, especially those in rural areas, in a tough position.
   
“Unfortunately a lot of people get on the Internet and get erroneous information and they start to give human-type drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol -- things that may be toxic to their animals,” Johnson said.

“So often we forget that those animals are really important part of the mission because we count on the feed animals,” said Dr. Kathleen Goeppinger.

Goeppinger is the president and CEO of Midwestern University. She's hoping the new veterinary school on the Glendale campus will help.
 
“There are three counties in the state that don't have any veterinarians,” Goeppinger said. “So we're really going to focus hard on [getting] students to come to us from rural areas, educate them here and hopefully send them back to their own community to be able to take care of their feed animals.”

That's something Bill Tolmachoff with Tolmachoff Farms and Casey Stechnij with Superstition Farm believe can give larger animals a fighting chance.

“I know guys that would put animals down sometimes because the vet couldn't get out there,” Tolmachoff said.

“Here in our neighborhood there are eight dairy farms and 20,000 cows which is a huge number,” Stechnij said. “But the families that work here know, if they don't take care of their animals, the animals won't take care of them.”

“I feel like it's one of the few things that I can do to really make a difference,” Johnson said.

Midwestern University's College of Veterinary Medicine will start classes in fall 2014.

For more information about the doctoral program log onto www.midwestern.edu.