A WODONGA woman's plaintive cry for help after her dog suffered a long, agonising death because she couldn't reach a vet to put the animal down has drawn calls from Australian Veterinary Association for more government support.
Courier driver Maree Drew said her beloved 14-year-old pet boxer, Chloe, suffering from respiratory and heart complications, suffered for nine hours because she couldn't get access to after hours vet services.
Ms Drew said last Tuesday night was one of the most traumatising experiences of her life.
"When I rang vets, and I rang them all from an online search for 24-hour animal care, I was put through to televets - often the same one even though the numbers were different," Ms Drew said.
"They all said 'we're sorry but we don't think your dog will make it through to the morning' and that was that.
"I said she's in pain, she's howling, she's having convulsion after convulsion and at one stage I thought I was going to have to put a plastic bag over her head, but I couldn't do that because it's just not in me.
"There should be at least one vet here we can call on at all hours, but the closest I could get was Wagga Wagga.
"It was devastating to watch - we took her to a vet the next morning where she was euthanased."
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Ms Drew said she planned a petition to present to a local member of parliament.
"Perhaps vets could take it in turns to have one practitioner available to deal with these cases and do the right thing by animals," she said.
Head of Veterinary and Public Affairs at the Australian Veterinary Association Cristy Secombe agreed with Ms Drew's claim there is a shortage of veterinarians, especially in rural areas.
Dr Secombe said the association backed calls to help distressed animals and said many vets in regional areas were closing because their practices were unviable.
"Like all professions, the veterinary profession is facing a skills shortage and we know it has been getting worse," Dr Secombe said.
"The skills shortage is a complex problem and part of the issue is that veterinary services, unlike human health services, do not receive government support.
"If the communities are not supporting veterinary practices then they are unable to remain viable, attract staff and in some cases they will close. We have been seeing this more commonly in regional towns. A possible solution is that animal health services are considered in a manner similar to human health care and education."
Dr Secombe said there were vet shortages in both cities and rural centres.
"It is very challenging for vets knowing that they are not be able to look after all of the animals," she said.
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