March 17 marks the first anniversary of a partnership between the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and the Adair County Humane Society. Humane society manager Missy Decker said that the agreement not only has had a tremendous positive impact on her organization’s finances, it has also led to additional partnerships that have benefited the community’s homeless animal population.
Through the college’s Shelter Medicine Program, a mobile surgical unit is dispatched to the Kirksville-based shelter once a month to spay and neuter 10 to 12 animals per visit. The fee for the visits is considerably less than the shelter had been paying for individual spays and neuters.
Routine vaccinations and health checks performed during the visits have also resulted in fewer disease outbreaks and a healthier animal population at the shelter. Decker said this allowed her to partner with a local pet store owner to take some of the shelter animals at the store and increase their exposure to potential adopters. She also was able to sign an agreement with officials at the Moberly Correctional Center to participate in the Puppies for Parole program, in which inmates socialize shelter dogs and train them in basic obedience to increase their likelihood of being adopted.
“It has opened a lot of doors for our little shelter,” Decker said. “I have been here 13 years and this the biggest thing we have had. It’s had such an impact.”
The Adair Humane Society shelter houses an average of 75 dogs and cats, although the numbers of homeless animals increases in the spring and summer. Decker said that before Assistant Teaching Professor of Shelter Medicine Amie Burling proposed the partnership with the invitation and support of local veterinarians.
“Our shelter veterinarian was beyond ecstatic to have some relief,” Decker said of the response.
As part of their clinical curriculum, all MU CVM veterinary students spend at least three weeks acquiring hands-on experience in shelter medicine under the immediate supervision of faculty veterinarians. Through the mobile surgical unit, veterinary students are able to increase the number of spays, neuters and simple surgeries, such umbilical hernia repairs, they perform, while simultaneously helping humane organizations throughout Missouri.
“The students are just unbelievable,” Decker said. “They act like we’re doing them a favor, and they don’t know how much they have helped us. When they come, each time, we’re just blown away.”