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New program connects South Coast veterinary students, animal shelter to provide hands-on experience

A puppy waking up following a medical procedure at the Human Society of Ventura County. Some Ventura College students are getting hands-on experience through a registered veterinary technician program.

Ventura College, Humane Society of Ventura County team up for program

We’re in the Humane Society of Ventura County’s clinic, and it’s packed with college students, and some cute little puppies. The 16 Ventura College students are in a new veterinary technology class which is giving them hands-on training.

"I really like them...cats especially. I can read them very well. I like working with the angry ones, because I feel like they just need some understanding, and some love," said Gina Mendez, who's one of the students in the new program.

It’s training them to be registered veterinary technicians. Dr. McKenzie Rasmussen runs the Ventura College program.

"It is a two year program in which the students get their Associates degrees, and get to sit for the national licensing exams to become registered veterinary technicians," said Rasmussen

Rasmussen said the students learning by doing. "Veterinary technicians are like the nursers of the veterinary field...they do similar roles...injections, diagnostics, x-rays...all sorts of things."

Today, the students had their hands full, working with a half dozen ten week old puppies.

"We are training their students that are getting ready for graduation on their technical skills," said Dr. Christina Sisk, who is the Director of Veterinary Services for the Humane Society of Ventura County, which is hosting the students at their Ojai facility. She says there’s a huge need for new people in this field.

The students in this class are close to graduation, and many are excited to start their new careers. Cassandra Hass says she might specialize in pet dental care. "I started off when I was 16 volunteering, and then got a job as a vet assistant, but wanted to become a veterinary technician."

A puppy undergboing treatment at the Human Society of Ventura County's clinic.

Humane Society Executive Director Eric Knight says it’s great to host the students, so they can see there are more job opportunities than just neighborhood pet clinics. And, he says for their always busy clinic, it’s nice to have some extra hands to help out.

Gina Mendez was already working at an emergency animal hospital before taking this class. With her new knowledge, and becoming certified, she said she’ll be able to do even more to help animals.

""i really love working with my patients. They can't talk. They can't tell us what's wrong. But, it's just so rewarding to see them go home, and feel better."

This program appears to be taking off in popularity. While there were 16 students in the class that’s set to graduate, there are already 48 other students who are part-way through the program.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.