By Dr. Becker
In the largest partnership every developed between an animal shelter and a veterinary school in the U.S., the Houston SPCA and Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences have collaborated to create a new program for fourth-year veterinary students. The two-week required program at the Houston SPCA will give students exposure to cases of cruelty, neglect and trauma involving companion animals, horses, donkeys, farm animals, exotics, and wildlife.
The goal of the new program, which kicked off in July, is to make future veterinarians more knowledgeable about shelter medicine and animal welfare, including rescue and forensics investigations.
The 14-Day Program
The 14-day program, which takes place entirely at the Houston SPCA, consists of 4 days of surgery, 4 days of intake and triage, 4 days of fieldwork, and 2 days traveling between College Station (where Texas A&M is located) and Houston.
Students work closely with HSPCA veterinarians, providing treatment and care of animals, including spays and neuters. By the end of the two weeks, most students will have completed 20 to 30 spay/neuter surgeries each.
At least 130 students are expected to complete the rotation each year, and starting with the 2014 graduating class, every Texas A&M veterinary student will have spent 12 days training in shelter medicine.
Immersing Vet Students in Shelter Medicine and Animal Welfare Issues
The Houston SPCA is the only organization of its kind in the country that serves all species on one campus. It sees over 26,000 animals and handles over 9,000 cases of abuse and neglect each year.
According to Patricia Mercer, Houston SPCA president, “The number of species the students will work with and the enormous number of animals we rescue from cruelty cases and through our 24-hour ambulance will provide students with an unparalleled opportunity which should serve as a national model.”
Students will not only be exposed to a large, complex and medically challenging caseload, they will also gain insight into investigations of animal cruelty and the realities of practicing high-volume, high-quality shelter medicine. The two-week rotation will also provide students with real world examples of how and why veterinarians must be involved in animal welfare issues.
Having vet students participate in the full scope of operations at the Houston SPCA will help them gain a deeper understanding of issues of animal welfare, animal abuse, and philanthropy. It will also give them the opportunity to embrace the societal responsibility they will carry as practicing veterinarians to offer their time and skills within their communities toward improving the health and well being of animals.