October 19, 2005

Vet School Obtains $1.7 Million Grant

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Maddie’s Fund, an organization that advocates against animal euthanasia, recently awarded the College of Veterinary Medicine a $1.7 million grant to launch a specialized shelter medicine program. Prof. Jan Scarlett, epidemiology, led the effort to obtain the monetary backing.

David Duffield ’62 and his wife Cheryl, the founders of Maddie’s Fund, have allotted $33 million to save dog and cat lives and have given more of their personal wealth to the animal welfare cause than any other individuals to date. Maddie’s Fund also awards grants to colleges of veterinary medicine: Cornell’s veterinary school has reaped the benefits of this facet of their philanthropy along with U.C.-Davis, Auburn University and Colorado State University.

Animal shelters are in a unique position from the perspective of clinical veterinary medicine because they often deal with epidemics, rather than isolated incidents of sickness. Until very recently, shelters didn’t have the resources to train personnel to deal with diseases in more of a “herd perspective” as opposed to the case-by-case basis of sick pets, Scarlett said.

In 1999, Scarlett paved the way for shelter medicine at Cornell by starting a course entitled “Issues and Preventative Medicine in Animal Shelters,” which involved collaboration between the Vet School and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Although the initial enrollment was a mere nine students, Scarlett did not abandon her drive to eventually implement a full-scale program. By 2005, another course, “Managing Infectious Diseases in Small Animal Populations,” was added, and the roster for that class tallied 29.

Scarlett said that she petitioned Maddie’s Fund for financial support of her objectives since currently no other organization offers such large grants.

Donald F. Smith, the Austin O. Hooey Dean of Veterinary Medicine, said he “strongly supported” Scarlett’s vision.

“The abiding commitment to shelter medicine is of enormous importance to the advancement of veterinary medicine, in general, but especially to the vital relationship between pets and humans,” Smith said in a press release.

The shelter medicine program will have two main objectives in mind: community-based program implementation and encouraging specialized training for those who already have their veterinary degree via an additional three-year residency. Ultimately a “no-kill” objective will be sought out, in accordance with the Maddie’s Fund mission: euthanasia will only be a legitimate option for animals displaying severe aggression or undergoing suffering that cannot be mitigated.

Animal shelters are in a hard position since they often do not have the finances to build more cages, and the staff tries to accommodate more animals than the space can physically handle.

Scarlett also recognizes that focusing on public awareness is important in order to prevent people from taking on animals they cannot adequately care for and then pass them on to shelters or let become stray. Thus, the shelter medicine program at Cornell plans to collaborate with the Tompkins County SPCA to have vet students and residents train their clients in proper pet management regarding issues like behavior, nutrition and the importance neutering for population control.

Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program is underwritten by a grant from Maddie’s Fund, The Pet Rescue Foundation. Maddie’s Fund, named after the Duffields’ Miniature Schnauzer dog, was established in 1999 and helps fund and promote the creation of a no-kill nation. The program helps find healthy stray animals homes in order to avoid euthanasia.

To accomplish its aims, Maddie’s Fund encourages rescue organizations to work with animal control shelters, traditional shelters and private veterinarians in order to find homes for healthy and treatable shelter animals. After the plateau has been reached where all the nation’s healthy homeless pets can be placed amidst loving families, efforts will be concentrated on rehabilitating animals that are underage, sick, injured or poorly behaved.

Archived article by Devan Flahive
Sun Contributor