CARROLLTON, Texas - People love their pets, but there is a problem that there may not be enough vets and vet techs in the coming years to help take care of them.
The Banfield Pet Hospital chain is trying to get ahead of the curve with a new, paid internship program.
A North Texas teen is one of 15 people selected nationwide.
It's a new kind of orientation day for 17-year-old Alessa Chavez.
The Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD rising senior is part of the inaugural NextVet internship program.
Dr. Meredith Howe is with Banfield Pet Hospital, which has 1,000 pet hospitals nationwide.
Howe said the veterinary profession is at a critical standpoint right now.
"We have an exponential growth of pets who need care and don't have enough people who are in the industry," she said.
Howe said, by 2030, there will be an estimated 75 million pets that won't be able to get timely healthcare based on the shortage.
She added that there's also a lack of diversity in the field.
That's where high schoolers like Chavez come in.
"When I got the news, I was extremely happy about it," Chavez said.
The paid, summer-long, immersive internship allows the 15 selected participants, from diverse backgrounds, to learn first-hand about careers in companion animal medicine at a local Banfield hospital.
For Chavez, who grew up in Peru and saw countless stray dogs and cats on the street, this internship will likely put her on a career path she didn't think possible until she moved to the U.S. three years ago.
"As a kid, I was trying to save every pet that I saw. Now that I grew up, I'm trying to find my way to do it. Why not find a career that can help me do that?" she said.
To extend opportunities beyond the 2022 class of interns, Banfield also offered pet care assistant roles to 10 highly qualified internship applicants. The hope is to continue the internships for years to come.