Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia SPCA launches new college to train veterinary staff

The Nova Scotia SPCA has launched its own college in Dartmouth, N.S., to train veterinary assistants and technologists. The hope is to help solve some of the staffing shortages facing the industry.

With more people getting pets and animals living longer, clinics are struggling to keep up with workload

The COVID-19 pandemic led to more people getting pets, thereby adding more workload to veterinary practices. (Maria Sbytova/Shutterstock)

The Nova Scotia SPCA has opened a college in Dartmouth, N.S., to train veterinary staff and hopes it will help with staffing shortages facing the industry.

With more people getting pets and animals living longer, veterinary clinics and hospitals are struggling to keep up.

"We were looking around the province at our ability to staff and the ability for veterinarians to staff their hospitals, and we know that veterinary staff has a direct impact on animal care, so how could we help solve that problem?" said SPCA spokeswoman Marni Tuttle.

The SPCA launched its veterinary assistant program in September 2021. Veterinary assistants help run the business side of clinics and hospitals, as well as help handle pets.

The college is also starting a veterinary technology program in September 2022. Veterinary technicians are essentially nurses in a vet setting. They aid with surgery, emergency care, give owners guidance on nutrition and health, triage patients and perform dental care.

The college hopes it will help some of the staffing woes facing the veterinary industry. (Shutterstock)

Dr. Michael West is the director of the veterinary technology program. He previously worked at the Atlantic Veterinary College in P.E.I.

West said veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants are vital to helping veterinary practices run smoothly.

He said veterinary technicians, in particular, can play an important role in relieving some of the staffing pressures.

"The veterinarians, we want them to be making diagnoses, we want them to be doing surgery and we want them to be prescribing and doing some wellness work and a well-trained technician should be able to cover a lot of the other other work that a veterinarian might find themselves doing," said West.

Tuttle said they are actively trying to increase the diversity of the students who apply to the college. She said the majority of veterinary technicians and assistants in the industry are white women.

"We reached out to, in particular, the Black and Indigenous communities in Nova Scotia, asking them to put forward names and to apply," she said.

"And we ran our first program on a full scholarship so that the ability to pay wasn't one of the things that kept people in the program."

The college is located at the same location as the SPCA's animal hospital, where they will receive on-the-job experience.

Both the hospital and college are operating on SPCA donations.



Brittany Wentzell

Current Affairs Reporter/Editor

Brittany Wentzell is based in Sydney, N.S., as a reporter for Information Morning Cape Breton. She has covered a wide range of issues including education, forestry and municipal government. Story ideas? Send them to


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