The University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine is launching the Shelter Medicine Program after successfully raising more than $1.3 million in grants, gifts and pledges.
More than a third of the funding—$500,000—is a 10-year pledge from rescue advocates Jeff and Sara Wiesner, whose dogs have been treated at the teaching hospital, the university reported Jan. 20.
“We hope the outcome of our gift is a better understanding among new veterinarians of the special challenges facing shelters and rescue groups and how each of them can make a difference helping these organizations,” Jeff Wiesner said.
The new program will include a shelter medicine rotation, an elective course, an intensive weeklong course, clinical studies, externships and a student club, the university stated.
Directing the program will be clinical assistant professor Sandra Newbury, DVM, the chairwoman of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Shelter Standards Task Force. She wants to sharply reduce the number of animals—an estimated 2 million to 5 million—that are euthanized each year at U.S. shelters.
“There is no affliction among companion animals that even approaches the level of mortality associated with animal homelessness,” Dr. Newbury said.
“Veterinarians are uniquely positioned to support the incredible efforts of shelters by educating [people] about shelter animal health and well-being as well as the underlying complexities that contribute to this devastating problem,” Newbury said.
The university is no stranger to shelter issues and medicine. Wisconsin has played host to Maddie’s Fund programs, and Professor Ronald Schultz, MS, Ph.D., developed shelter vaccine guidelines.
“We have a long tradition of working to make the lives of shelter animals better,” said the school’s dean, Mark D. Markel, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVS. “The school is dedicated to training our students in this very important field and enhancing their hands-on skills and understanding of the importance of giving back to the community.
“This influx of funding gives us our first opportunity to truly formalize and focus those efforts.”
The $1.3 million also will be used to hire an outreach veterinarian, a clinical research assistant and a program manager, support three fellowships, and enhance online resources for shelters, according to the university.