Lawmakers approve vet school at USU

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The Senate gave final approval Wednesday to creating a $1.7 million veterinary school partnership between Utah State University and Washington State University.

Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan, Senate sponsor of HB57, said the program would allow students to take their first two years of classes at USU, and then take two years of clinics at Washington State.

The Senate passed it 24-2, and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.

Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, earlier told the House that promising veterinary students must leave the state each year to pursue that career, and that Utah is facing a shortage of animal doctors.

Mathis said 20 to 25 students go out of state each year to get the degree, but USU is primed to begin taking them.

The bill had been held for weeks until the end of the session to ensure that lawmakers could find money in the budget to fund it.

Supporters said the program would save money in comparison to having USU operate its own veterinary program. Mathis has said that price tag would be about $10 million.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, a rancher and farmer, earlier told the House that the proposal is a way to protect the multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry by getting more qualified veterinarians in the state — calling them "a critical element" in that economy.