The companies that manufacture or supply medications and equipment and provide services to help veterinary practices run smoothly also perform behind-the-scenes philanthropic work on behalf of the profession and the animals it serves.
Organizations that have compelling missions often earn the philanthropic nod. For example, in 2009 Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. donated $15 million to animal welfare programs alone.
Nestlé looks for the biggest impact when deciding which organizations to donate to, says marketing official Kurt R. Venator, DVM, Ph.D., of Nestlé.
“We like to create shared value, which means our contributions will be good for the community and good for the company,” Dr. Venator says. “We have relationships with all of the U.S. veterinary schools, which house the future of the veterinary industry.”
Martin Mulroy, vice president of veterinary sales and marketing at Abaxis Inc., says the company maintains a strong relationship with Colorado State University.
“We’re participating in the funding of a new avian/exotic animal wing at the veterinary hospital, and we donate equipment to the veterinary school,” he said. “We also sponsor chair positions at several other universities, including the University of Florida, Texas A&M and the University of Pennsylvania.”
Some companies, such as Idexx Laboratories, fund veterinary student scholarships.
“Any student attending an AVMA-accredited college can apply for the Allan Hart Scholarship,” says Jim Morris, senior marketing manager at Idexx. “We have a lot more demand for donations than we have ability to help, but we have continued to make donations despite the down economy.”
Merial Ltd. donates product samples to veterinary schools for student training, says Mary Bryant, VMD, the director of professional affairs. The company also sponsors a variety of orientation, training and faculty programs nationwide to promote and further veterinary education.
“The Merial Veterinary Scholars Program allows veterinary students to have a first look into the world of biomedical research,” Dr. Bryant says. “This program encourages students to present biomedical research findings and pursue a career in this area of the veterinary profession.”
In addition to veterinary schools, nonprofit animal shelters are corporate favorites.
“We partnered with Petfinder.com and the CATalyst Council to donate cardboard boxes that convert into a perch while the cat is at the shelter, and then convert into a carrier when they are adopted,” Morris says. “This allows the cats to feel calmer when in the shelter environment and friendlier when potential adopters come to greet them.
“Sixty to 70 percent of cats going into shelters are euthanized,” he says. “If we can do something to help lower than number, we are for it. We always sell our products at a discount to nonprofit shelters, but we also support adoption events, and our employees volunteer at local facilities. As a company, we encourage our employees to donate their time to charities whenever possible.”
Many say giving back to the veterinary community is their corporate responsibility. Just as education of clients is a practitioner’s responsibility, Bayer Animal Health executives say education is part of their mission. The company funds continuing education for not only veterinarians and staff members but also attends to students in middle and secondary schools.
“By having a presence in middle and secondary schools, we promote science careers, perhaps leading to a future in veterinary medicine,” says Bob Walker, director of communications at Bayer Animal Health. “We provide funding and scholarships to veterinary students at all 28 U.S. schools in addition to working alongside students who volunteer at their local shelters. We provide monetary support and volunteer hours at local shelters and even host adoptions at our facility.”
In late 2009, Bayer Animal Health partnered with Animal Haven, a Kansas City shelter near the main Bayer facility in Shawnee Mission, Kan., to fund a satellite adoption center at a shopping mall. More than 300 animals were adopted over two months, Walker says.
“The program was such a success, Animal Haven took in animals from surrounding animal facilities to replace already adopted animals,” Walker says.
Manufacturers also fund programs that promote the profession’s nurturing instincts. Purina helps sponsor the Human Animal Bond Symposium, which teaches how owners can nurture a bond with their pet, in hopes of reducing the number of animals relinquished to shelters.
“We try to donate to areas that can prevent negative experiences for animals,” Venator says. “We also want to draw attention to what we believe strongly in, which is proper nutrition and the benefits of making that part of veterinary medical care.
“In that regard, we created Nestlé Purina Nutrition Centers at universities. These provide an organized area to store nutrition products for easy access and storage.”
Partnering with organizations that cater to the veterinary profession is another way manufacturers help the profession.
“We help fund a variety of veterinary organizations, including the Companion Animal Parasite Council, the American Heartworm Association, the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the International Society of Companion Animal Infectious Diseases,” Morris says.
Online learning is a fast-growing way for veterinarians and their staff to acquire continuing education credits. Merial hosts RACE-approved continuing education on a variety of topics.
“MerialEDU is a series of courses that are free and available through VetMed Team,” Bryant says. “This program also includes courses that help support veterinary practices, such as business building, team management and patient compliance.”
Merial provides technical support, staff education and training. It also offers client outreach and college programs for veterinary organizations such as the American Heartworm Society, CATalyst and the Companion Animal Parasite Council.
“In 2010 Merial is committed to making a donation of $300,000 through the Paws to Save Pets program, specifically aimed at helping Gulf Coast clinics and shelters,” Bryant says. “The program focuses on readiness, including education and training for disaster preparedness; response, developing infrastructure for emergency relief; and rebuilding by helping rebuild and restock after a disaster.”
Abaxis was one of the veterinary companies that responded to the BP gulf oil spill. On-site veterinarians decided whether animals could continue rehabilitation or had to be euthanized. J. Gregory Massey, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, of the University of California, Davis, who helped lead avian care after the spill, called on Abaxis to donate equipment so the veterinary team could gather more information on sick animals and make more informed decisions on their care.