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Racing To Save Pets At WVC

NASCAR ShelterBest Racing to Save Pets Day, sponsored by Pets Best Insurance.

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The human-animal bond went way beyond our expectations this year at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas. Many thanks to WVC’s tireless staff, President Dr. Jim Furman, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steve Crane; and  Executive Director Dr. Guy Pidgeon.

WVC celebrated its 80th anniversary this year. The very first meeting was held in Utah in 1928 as the Western States Sanitation Conference. Then it morphed into Western States Veterinary Conference and moved to Las Vegas. Since 1985 it has been known as WVC. At more than 6,300, veterinarian attendance once again exceeded the North American Veterinary Conference, making WVC the largest veterinary professional meeting in the world with an amazing international attendance.

During the conference, WVC introduced the Oquendo Center for Clinical Education. This 66,000-square-foot facility is the new headquarters for WVC, home of the College of Southern Nevada Veterinary Technician Program, and dedicated to “hands on” continuing education through courses and seminar packages all year long.

This WVC was a meeting  shall never forget. It began with the usual CE and networking with friends at meals. My Monday was devoted to CE, looking up favorite vendors in the extensive exhibit hall, and book signings with Platinum Performance and Pets Best.

Tuesday was NASCAR ShelterBest Racing to Save Pets Day, sponsored by Pets Best Insurance. This special day for about 50 people included me; my husband, Ira Lifland; author and radio personality Tracie Hotchner; Brian Huber of Oncura Partners; author Arden Moore; and Greg Mcdonald of Pets Best. 

Unfortunately, Dr. Patty Olson, chief executive officer and president of the Morris Animal Foundation, and Jack Stephens, founder and president of Pets Best, could not race with us because of a scheduling conflict. The MAF luncheon, with Dr. Marty Becker as special guest speaker, was scheduled at the same time.

We participants were picked up in elegant limo-style buses that took us to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway where we spent the morning learning how to drive NASCAR racing cars at the Richard Petty Experience.

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It was a bit scary for some people to actually drive–thank goodness they offered our group an out with an opportunity to be a passenger with an official race car driver instead of actually driving. Not me–I wanted to drive!

How did this happen? Dr. Stephens learned that the Thompson Family Racing Club and its driver, Brett Thompson, wanted a national logo and a special cause for racing their club sports cars on the NASCAR circuit.

Brett and his team at Thompson Motorsports partnered with Pets Best Insurance in 2007 to launch ShelterBest, Racing to Save Pets. The program has been very successful on and off the track. The Thompsons now race to raise public awareness about the numbers of homeless animals in local shelters awaiting adoption. Brett makes donations to local shelters on behalf of Pets Best everywhere he races. 

Dr. Bruce Little, who recently retired as chief executive officer of the American Veterinary Medical Assn., joined the Pets Best Board of Directors as a consultant and representative. This announcement assures AVMA members that we will continue to see him as an active contributor to the future of our profession.

NASCAR racing events draw the largest spectator audience in the country. It was a surprise for everyone who attended Western to see actual race cars up close. One car was inside the Mandalay Bay hotel near the food court and one was outside in the parking lot near the convention center.

Both cars and the huge trailer that hauls them were covered with familiar logos of sponsors such as Morris Animal Foundation, humane shelters, Cat Chat and Dog Talk Radio, Oncura Partners, Pets Best and Pawspice.

For travel, both cars are rolled onto a hydraulic lift behind the trailer and then elevated to the upper deck of the hauler. One morning, I watched as one of the cars was rolled out on the platform and lowered to the parking lot level for display.  It was exciting to see the expressions of delight when veterinarians, RVTs, staff, exhibitors and family members saw this unexpected show.

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It is obvious to see that ShelterBest Racing to Save Pets has won the hearts of spectators across the country. Race fans don’t expect to be reminded of homeless pets in shelters or pets with cancer when cheering at the races.   It was a delightful surprise to see the huge hauler truck and the cars with all our favorite logos displayed so proudly.

No one is immune to road issues while traveling.

Here is how Jack and Vicki Stephens made it back home to the Boise, Idaho, area from Las Vegas.

“We had a difficult trip back,” Jack wrote to me. “First, the engine light went on, so we had to return and go to the dealer and have that fixed, so we were late leaving after sitting three  hours at the dealer. 

“We picked up Andie (a Borzoi we adopted during WVC) and, racing to make up time and see if our house was OK from the earthquake, I got a speeding ticket near Alamo. Then, in the mountains entering Ely, our rear tire exploded, separated on both sides all the way around, so I had to replace it with a spare tire on tilted gravel next to the highway.” 

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