Keynote/General Session

Panel Discussion: Mitigating the Veterinary Shortage

November 20, 2024

9:15 am - 10:30 am | Grand Ballroom

It is no secret that there is a growing shortage of veterinary professionals across the US and beyond.  And the burgeoning cost of veterinary care impact ALL pet owners, but disproportionately those who have been historically and systemically underserved.  There are many potential solutions, and all will need to be used to reverse the dangerous trends of today’s data.


The animal welfare field is feeling the pinch in a variety of ways.  In recent years, studies have been conducted in California and nationally to help us better understand how the veterinary crisis impacts our profession.  Hear from a panel of experts who will walk us through the results of those studies and will share some of the work being done currently to address the troublesome findings. The panel will discuss:


  • Legislative updates and related calls to action for the industry
  • Recruitment and retention of shelter veterinarians and medical staff
  • Developing veterinary support staff and harnessing their potential impact on animal care



Mark Cushing, JD

Founder & CEO, Animal Policy Group

A long-time political strategist, government regulatory advisor, corporate executive and former litigator, Mark focuses his advocacy practice on providing high-level strategic advice and services to clients with needs at any level of government, and organizations in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Since 2004, Mark has specialized in animal health, animal welfare, veterinary and veterinary educational issues and accreditation. He is an Honors graduate with distinction from Stanford University and the Willamette University College of Law.


Sue Neal, PhD

Research and Data Analytics Consultant, The Veterinary Care Accessibility Project

Dr. Sue Neal has over 25 years of experience in animal welfare.  She started her career as the Wildlife and Exotic Animals Specialist for the largest humane society in Michigan. This role inspired her interest in public policy and she went on to complete a doctorate in public administration, an MPA and an MS in Geography/GIS. She works as a research and data analytics consultant in animal welfare, is a professor of political science at Arkansas State University, and is the executive director of a nonprofit nature preserve.


Jennifer Scarlet, DVM

Chief Executive Officer, San Francisco SPCA

Dr. Jennifer Scarlett has spearheaded transformative programs, including shelter coalitions in California’s Central Valley, veterinary outreach to under-resourced neighborhoods, and the Shelter PALS legal service. Under her leadership, the SF SPCA has significantly advanced animal welfare, enhancing lifesaving capacity and addressing pet-health inequity in San Francisco while assisting shelters statewide. With 20 years of veterinary experience, Dr. Scarlett holds a DVM from Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.


Roberta Westbrook, DVM

Chief Animal Welfare & Medical Officer, Houston SPCA

Dr. Roberta received her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. As an adjunct professor at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biological Sciences, Dr. Westbrook co-teaches an elective course and facilitates the 4th year, 2-week clinical rotation in Shelter Medicine. She serves her community as the 2024 President of the Harris County Veterinary Medical Association, and is a proud board member of The Association of Animal Welfare Advancement.