Maddie’s aims to fix vet shortage

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2001:

NAPLES, Fla.; ALAMEDA, Calif.–Hoping to hire a fulltime veterinarian, Collier County Domestic Animal Services included a state-of-the-art neutering clinic and diagnostic lab in a $3.2 million new shelter opened on January 12 in Naples, Florida. Shelter director Jodi Walters thought she had offered a competitive salary and compensation package, with the balmy climate and beaches of the Florida coast for an added attraction–but no vet applied, she told Rachelle Bott of the Naples Daily News.

As shelters expand their life-saving programs and individual petkeepers keep more pets, longer, demand for veterinary services has far outstripped the growth of the veterinary profession. And because shelter work historically has been repetitive, depressing because of the numbers of animals who must be euthanized or killed for population control, and less lucrative than private practice, shelters tend to be feeling the vet shortage most. Even prestigious no-kill shelters are often having to pay recruits more than retirees were making to keep positions filled.

Recognizing the scarcity of shelter vets as an obstacle to success in building a no-kill nation, Maddie’s Fund in November 2000 created the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program within the School of Veterinary Medicine at the Davis campus of the University of California. Funded at $394,000 for the first year, the program is to receive $2.2 million from Maddie’s by 2007. The curriculum is to include training, service, and research components. Complete details are online at <www.maddiesfund.org>.

Although other veterinary schools have maintained working relationships with shelters since the Massachusetts SPCA opened Angell Memorial Hospital as a teaching institution in 1918, the Maddie’s program is believed to be the first attempt to establish shelter medicine as a recognized specialty. Previously, shelter medicine courses have been minor
portions of small animal and/or public health veterinary curriculums.

Cash for cats, too
Maddie’s Fund had a Christmas present for cat rescuers, too: $1.07 million in new support for the Feral Cat Altering Program begun by the California Veterin-ary Medical Association in August 1999. “Originally the program was to receive a total of $3.2 million over three years for altering 60,000 feral cats,” explained Maddie’s Fund veterinary consultant Laurie Peek, DVM. “But the number of surgeries far outstripped expectations, and Maddie’s Fund dollars have kept pace. With this latest award, Maddie’s Fund has given the FCAP program a total of $3.9 million. Maddie’s fund provides $30 for every male cat surgery and $70 for every female cat surgery. Of the surgeries performed so far,” Peek noted, “approximately 60% have been female.”

The FCAP program was augmented in August 2000 by the addition of the Low Income Owner/Caregiver Cat Altering Program, which will fix up to three cats per low-income client, except in communities which have made cat sterilization mandatory. The reason for that restriction, Maddie’s Fund executive director Richard Avanzino told ANIMAL PEOPLE, is to avoid expending Maddie’s resources on surgeries that would be performed anyhow.

Details of the LCAP program are posted at <www.cvma.net>.

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