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A 2018 study commissioned by the Access to Veterinary Care Coalition (AVCC) found that 28% of U.S. pet owners experienced a barrier to veterinary care, primarily because they could not afford it. An injured or ill pet not having access to veterinary care may experience prolonged recovery, distressing the ...

A 2018 study commissioned by the Access to Veterinary Care Coalition (AVCC) found that 28% of U.S. pet owners experienced a barrier to veterinary care, primarily because they could not afford it. An injured or ill pet not having access to veterinary care may experience prolonged recovery, distressing the family. Too often, a lack of access to veterinary care breaks up the family because the pet is relinquished to a shelter or dies prematurely. Vulnerable individuals, including seniors, children, and those with special needs, may experience significant impacts.
Among veterinarians participating in the AVCC study, 88% agreed that pets are family members and that not obtaining needed veterinary care impacts the owner's mental and emotional health.
These findings are a compelling rationale for understanding better the barriers to veterinary care and the development of sustainable, evidence-based approaches to mitigate them.

Barriers to veterinary care are primarily related to the financial and other realities of the pets' families. In 2018, the AVCC estimated at least 29 million dogs and cats in the United States live in families who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. Qualifying for public assistance is a strong indicator of the inability to pay for veterinary care.
One Health strategies to improve access to veterinary care for underserved pets can be more effective through attention to the pet's family and their ecosystem, primarily characterized by low socioeconomics. Inter-professional collaborations with social service agencies, animal welfare organizations, and other stakeholders constitute a One Health approach.

AlignCare, a recent advancement in improving access to veterinary care, is a One Health network that aligns the resources of social service agencies, animal welfare organizations, and veterinary service providers while utilizing community funding.
We invite contributors to this Research Topic who have investigated strategies to improve access to veterinary care or related veterinary and social work education to reduce barriers to care. The research reported here will advance understanding of evidence-based practices that increase access to veterinary care for underserved families.

The Access to Veterinary Care Research Topic includes, but is not limited to, qualitative and quantitative studies addressing:

•- The Human-Animal Bond
•- Validation of veterinary service delivery models, including payment options
•- Companion animal welfare, public health, and society
•- One Health collaborations as a paradigm to improve access to veterinary care, including veterinary social work
•- Validation of spectrum of care/incremental veterinary care protocols and guidelines as effective patient management strategies
•- The roles of veterinary and social work education in improving access to veterinary care
•- Cultural competence, diversity, equity, and inclusion in veterinary medicine and animal welfare
•- Programs that mitigate barriers to veterinary care in urban, suburban/small town, and rural communities
•- Use of technology in improving access to veterinary care, e.g., virtual healthcare/telehealth
•- The impacts that lack of access to veterinary care have on the well-being of veterinary care teams

Keywords: Human-animal bond, Veterinary Care, Animal Welfare, Companion animals, community service, affordable care, incremental veterinary care, veterinary social work, one health


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