Shelter Medicine Resident Dr. Laura Andersen blogs about her experience at an inspirational shelter, the Richmond SPCA.
For me, one of the best parts about being a resident in Shelter Medicine is visiting various shelters, learning first hand the challenges they face and the creative ways they are responding to these challenges. I have had the amazing opportunity to tour over 100 animal shelters and spend extra time as an extern at a handful of these organizations. I enjoy sharing my own knowledge and I always learn something new everywhere I go. The innovative programs implemented at the Richmond SPCA in Virginia, my most recent shelter externship, truly inspire me.
Among the many programs they offer in addition to humane animal care and education, the Richmond SPCA operates a free and low-cost spay/neuter clinic and behavior helpline and offers pet behavior classes, children’s educational programs, a pet pantry, an affordable wellness clinic and numerous volunteer programs. As an animal sheltering organization that has been in existence for over 120 years, one might assume such an organization would become comfortable in these programs, in their position within their community and no longer feel the need to be creative or innovative. Not the Richmond SPCA. They continually strive to improve and innovate, to identify and even anticipate community needs and respond. During my recent visit at the beginning of this year, I witnessed this juggernaut of innovation in action as I participated in two new programs they’d been developing and have now implemented.
As an animal sheltering organization that has been in existence for over 120 years, one might assume such an organization would become comfortable in these programs, in their position within their community and no longer feel the need to be creative or innovative. Not the Richmond SPCA.
The School for Dogs was launched in the Fall of 2011 to provide an additional dog training option for the Richmond community. The School for Dogs targets busy dog owners who want their pet to receive the very best training and socialization. Skilled and experienced dog trainers meet with each dog’s owner to develop a training plan based on the individual dog’s needs and owner’s goals. The dogs come to the school twice a week for a full day of individualized instruction and owners receive a written report at the end of each day. At the end of the program, owners are provided with a video summary of their dogs’ training sessions to facilitate ongoing training with the owners and their families at home. I attended several sessions at the School for Dogs and their staff put me to work performing “physical examinations” on several of the dogs in order to help the dogs become more comfortable with the kind of handling they would experience at a veterinary appointment.
On March 5, 2012, the Richmond SPCA opened the Clinic for Compassionate Care, which provides full-service veterinary care at low cost. Through a study conducted by Alan Newman Research in 2010, the leadership at Richmond SPCA became aware of the need for low-cost veterinary care within their community and the Clinic for Compassionate Care was created to provide an option to fill that need. This clinic provides full-service veterinary care to low-income families with pets in the Richmond region as well as services for homeless pets in the care of government animal control shelters, pets adopted from the Richmond SPCA, pets referred by other veterinary practices due to their owners’ inability to pay regular prices and pets of Richmond SPCA employees. These services are in addition to those provided through Smoky’s Spay/Neuter Clinic that was opened in 2004.
My visit to the Richmond SPCA was truly one of the highlights of my residency. I left (however reluctantly) with a renewed sense of purpose and inspiration.
My visit to the Richmond SPCA was truly one of the highlights of my residency. I left (however reluctantly) with a renewed sense of purpose and inspiration. I was pleased that I could be involved and even contribute to these innovative programs. I know this experience will have a lasting effect on me and I will strive to foster the Richmond SPCA spirit of innovation and invention within myself and other organizations I interact with in the future. Being immersed in such a vibrant humane animal care community has inspired me to tap into my creativity to find new solutions to the challenges we face in the sheltering world and I hope, through reading this blog, you have been inspired too.
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