The Houston SPCA and the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences have partnered to create a new program which exposes veterinary students to animal cruelty, neglect and trauma cases involving dogs, cats and other companion animals, horses and donkeys, farm animals, exotic animals and native wildlife.
The partnership is considered the largest between an animal shelter and a veterinary school in the United States to go beyond the scope of the typical treatment and care of cats and dogs.
Fourth-year students from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences will rotate through a required two-week program at the Houston SPCA where they will work alongside experts in cases of animal cruelty, neglect and trauma. The goal of the program, according to Houston SPCA President Patricia Mercer, is to ensure future veterinarians – many of whom will practice in Texas – become more knowledgeable about the full spectrum of shelter medicine and animal welfare including rescue and forensics investigations for all species.
The Houston SPCA investigates over 9,000 cases of animal abuse and neglect each year. The shelter is also the only animal welfare organization in the country that serves all species on one campus.
“As a leader in animal welfare, both nationally and in our own community, the Houston SPCA is honored to partner with Texas A&M to offer this unique learning opportunity for veterinary students,” says Mercer. “The number of species the students will work with and the enormous number of animals we rescue from cruelty cases and through our 24-hour ambulance will provide students with an unparalleled opportunity which should serve as a national model.”
Fully integrating students into the broad scope of operations at the Houston SPCA, the largest animal protection agency in the Gulf Coast, gives the students the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of animal welfare, animal abuse, philanthropy, and their societal responsibility to give of their time and talents within their communities, while advancing the health and well-being of animals.
“There’s no better way to gain immersive, hands-on experience than at a shelter such as the Houston SPCA which sees over 26,000 animals per year,” says Dr. Eleanor M. Green, Dean of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the only veterinary college in the state of Texas. “We have a responsibility to provide a dynamic and engaging learning environment for our students that challenges them to perform at their very best and prepares them to be career ready at graduation.”
Dr. Kenita Rogers, DVM, DACVIM, Associate Dean for Professional Programs believes this extraordinary partnership will be a model for veterinary medical education and for academic/private endeavors that provide a true investment in the future of the veterinary profession.
“Through this new and incredibly exciting partnership with the Houston SPCA, our students are not only exposed to a large, complicated, and medically challenging caseload, but also have experiences that cannot be mimicked in any other setting, namely exposure to animal cruelty investigation and the principles of high volume, high quality shelter medicine. The students are fully integrated into the operations of the Houston SPCA and are surrounded by contemporary “real-life” examples of how and why veterinarians must be involved in animal welfare issues.”
The program is partially funded by PetSmart Charities, Inc., a nonprofit animal welfare organization that helps find homes for more than 400,000 dogs and cats every year through its adoption program in PetSmart stores and its signature adoption events.
“As the largest funder of animal welfare efforts in North America, PetSmart Charities is committed to addressing pet overpopulation at the community level,” said Jan Wilkins, Executive Director of PetSmart Charities, Inc. “We are proud to support this initiative that prepares the next generation of veterinarians to help sterilize pets prior to adoption, including puppies and kittens, while also educating about shelter medicine and the devastating effects of animal abuse and neglect.”