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El Paso County Animal Welfare Dept. to create low-cost clinic, will hire vet students from Juarez

EL PASO, Texas -- An 8,000 sq. ft. portable that used to be a VA mobile clinic, now it belongs to the county's Animal Welfare Department.

Soon staff will be able offer services at little or no cost for pet owners across the county.

Thanks to county commissioners as well as a $1.3 million federal grant, the clinic, which currently sits in an empty lot in Horizon will provide a services like spaying and neutering, microchipping, flea, and tick preventatives and more.

The goal is to help tackle the influx of stray animals across the county, which will help alleviate some of the stress at the Animal Services Shelter.

Executive director of the department Lauralei Combs helped create a similar program in Travis County.

Combs said for many pet owners, a big issue in keeping pets healthy is cost.

"I watched (the shelter) go from a high-kill shelter to a no-kill, one of the largest in the nations now. And they have strategic programs in place," Combs said. "One of them is the low cost pet clinic and offering these vouchers and low costs to your pet owners there, we actually reduced the intake to the city shelter. So it started at 21,000 and last year was recorded at 11,000. So we know if we put in these strategies, we can reduce the intake to our city.

The clinic is also aimed at tackling the veterinarian shortage we're seeing across the country.

The department is teaming up with veterinarian students at UACJ, the university in Juarez. Those students will work at the clinic. Once they graduate they'll sign a three-year contract and the county will help them work towards getting a specific license that allows them to work here in Texas.

"We went to the university, we spoke with the dean, we asked about the program and then we actually asked the graduates, 'so what's holding you back here?' And they said, 'the cost of the certification programs to get licensed in the state of Texas," said Combs. "(It) requires that you speak in writing in English, so learning the language. I took those problems and concerns to our commissioners and said, Why don't we support them? They have a skill set that we desperately need here, and our court and our judge said yes."

The clinic is set to open January 2023.

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Brianna Chavez

Brianna Chavez is an ABC-7 reporter/producer.

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