BATON ROUGE, LA — The Humane Society of the United States donated $200,000 to the shelter medicine program at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine. The LSU SVM’s shelter medicine program gives veterinary students the opportunity to learn about medical care for dogs and cats in animal shelters and develop primary care and surgery skills while providing their services and expertise to animal shelters in south Louisiana.
With the $200,000 grant from The HSUS, the LSU SVM will extend its efforts to serve some of the shelters in areas outside of southern Louisiana, such as those in central and north Louisiana. The HSUS had previously given $600,000 to LSU SVM in support of the shelter medicine program, which currently serves animal shelters or animal control centers in the parishes of Ascension, Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafayette, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and West Baton Rouge
“The HSUS grant will extend the reach of our program and allow our students and faculty to engage with the community in service partnerships that will help make the shelters better, and most importantly help more homeless animals find good homes,” said Joseph Taboada, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, associate dean for student and academic affairs at the LSU SVM. “We are certainly grateful for the tremendous support of The HSUS in helping us to establish this program and for its ongoing commitment to sustaining excellence in this important program.”
The primary purpose of the grant is to provide veterinary students at LSU SVM surgical and hands-on experience while also contributing to the needs of animal control facilities and animal shelters in underserved communities in Louisiana. Emphasis of this service learning initiative will be on animal wellness, pet population dynamics, disaster medicine, animal behavior and animal welfare.
“Superior veterinary care at public and private community shelters in Louisiana, and better access to spaying and neutering services, are signature goals of The HSUS, and crucial elements of our broader initiative to improve the lives of dogs and cats in the state, and to end the euthanasia of healthy and treatable pets,” said Andrew Rowan, PhD, HSUS chief scientific officer. “A vibrant shelter medicine program at LSU SVM, one that extends itself to underserved communities, is essential to those goals, and one of the most fundamental contributions we could hope to make to animal welfare in Louisiana.”
The Shelter Medicine and Population Control rotation at LSU SVM is an elective student rotation that can be taken by third- and fourth-year students during the clinical portion of the veterinary curriculum. The rotation was developed using grants from The HSUS and the American Kennel Club Companion Animal Recovery in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and has evolved into one of the most popular elective rotations offered at the LSU SVM. The program has approximately 75 students enrolled in this curriculum each year.
“This HSUS grant gives us funding for a shelter medicine fellowship position, which will help us expand into other parts of Louisiana,” said Wendy Wolfson, DVM (LSU SVM 1986) veterinary surgery instructor and director of the shelter medicine program. “Our goal is to have decreased euthanasia rates in the shelters through better animal health care, provide healthier animals for adoption and encourage students to volunteer or seek employment in shelters once they graduate.”
The shelter medicine program has now grown to include 23 shelters, in some instances providing consultation on an as needed basis, while in others serving as the main source of veterinary/spay/neuter care. Over the past two years, the students on the shelter medicine rotation have evaluated over 3,500 animals and participated in over 1,400 surgeries at shelters. Nearly 1,500 surgeries on shelter and feral animals have been performed at the LSU SVM. These efforts have undoubtedly had a positive impact on adoptions in the shelters served, as well as on the primary care and surgery skills of the students involved.
The Shelter Medicine and Population Control rotation has four main objectives:
1. Expose veterinary students to shelter medicine in a service learning setting in which they develop an understanding of the role of shelters in the community and how a veterinarian can have a positive impact on both the shelter and the community through their involvement with the shelters.
2. Supply veterinary care and consulting to shelters in south Louisiana and in doing so expose students to spay/neuter and other primary care learning opportunities.
3. Through a partnership with Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART), to supply the infrastructure to respond to emergency needs in the case of natural disasters affecting the region and to expose veterinary students to the role that a veterinarian can play in disaster response.
4. Develop veterinary student communication skills through teaching opportunities with shelter personnel and local high schools.