There is an urgent need for shelter medicine support in south Louisiana. LSU SVM and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have partnered to develop a Shelter Medicine Program whose purpose is to provide a comprehensive educational experience for veterinary students in animal wellness, pet population dynamics, disaster medicine, animal behavior and animal welfare in the community setting.
Students gain valuable veterinary medical experience by working under the direction of LA-licensed SVM faculty to serve the needs of un-owned animals in south Louisiana animal shelters. South Louisiana communities that were affected by the 2005 hurricanes have become the primary educational settings. Overpopulation and neglect of dogs and cats in these affected southern Parishes remain major problems in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane season and are likely to continue to be problems for years to come.
Two special complementary courses have been developed and incorporated into the professional curriculum.
1. Community / Disaster Medicine and Pet Population Dynamics:
Each year, two 2-week elective courses are offered to veterinary students. These courses cover community and preventative/wellness care medicine, companion animal welfare, population dynamics, and disaster medicine. The role of spay/neuter in population control, adoption screening, the human-animal bond, compassion fatigue, stress in the shelter and community education are stressed.
2. Clinical Shelter Medicine Rotation
A 2-week service learning rotation is offered to veterinary students in community and disaster medicine, designed to introduce the participant to practical aspects of population dynamics and control strategies in low-income communities as well as wellness care for at-risk populations. The service learning rotation allows students to actively participate in the medical assessment and treatment of un-owned animals in south Louisiana animal shelters under the direction of La-licensed SVM faculty members. Students who are enrolled in this course travel with faculty member to shelters in the southeast Louisiana region. Students gain experience in primary care medicine as they are instructed in the importance of community education and involvement. Veterinary students will also participate in programs geared towards educating grade school students on the importance of responsible pet ownership as well as the need to spay/neuter pets. The aforementioned course activities will have a positive impact on the health and population dynamics of dogs and cats in south Louisiana.
These courses constitute credit toward fulfillment of the requirements for the DVM degree in the professional veterinary curriculum. Veterinary graduates, skilled in this field will be capable of providing ongoing service to the people and pets of the locales where they will eventually practice.
3. Community Spay/Neuter Sunday
The SVM hosts a monthly high quality/high volume spay/neuter day supported and staffed by local area private practitioners—the LSU Animal Sterilization Assistance Program (LSU-ASAP). The spay/neuter day began in May, 2006, and now assists all animal organizations in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area, including the East Baton Rouge Animal Control Facility. This program aims to spay or neuter 100 animals each month to achieve the common goal of area veterinarians, animal control agencies, and animal welfare organizations to control dog and cat populations in the Greater Baton Rouge region. Volunteers from the local veterinary community, LSU faculty, residents, interns, staff, and veterinary students, along with volunteers from local animal welfare organizations work together in this highly successful program.
LSU-ASAP Partners: Cat Haven, CAWS, East Baton Rouge Animal Control, Spay Baton Rouge
Animal Shelter Partners: Tangipahoa Animal Control, Town of Walker Animal Control, Acadia Parish Animal Control, Pointe Coupee Animal Rescue, Ascension Animal Control, Dixon Pen Pals Animal Shelter and Iberville Animal Control.
The SVM long-term commitment
The LSU SVM has cooperated with the East Baton Rouge Animal Control Facility in a mutually beneficial program for the last 20 years, spaying and neutering 12-15 dogs per month in preparation for their subsequent adoption. In addition, SVM faculty and students have participated in a feral cat control program on the LSU campus since 1990, spaying and neutering 6-12 cats per month. The program has been extended to several other Baton Rouge neighborhoods.