A year of COVID, innovation, collaboration, and inspiration
In this extraordinary year, we are grateful for the bold work of animal shelters, spay/neuter clinics, community cat volunteers, and all of the others who navigated the landscape of animal welfare through times marked by challenges we’ve never encountered before. We’re also grateful for the support of our donors, alumni, instructors, and externship providers of our shelter medicine program. You’ve helped us keep our courses open to veterinary students seeking careers in animal welfare and our support flowing to animal shelters navigating the ongoing and unprecedented pandemic landscape. With another crazy year in the books, we wanted to share this review of what we’ve accomplished together.
Our team brought creativity and humor to overcome pandemic barriers to our outreach programs, including Million Cat Challenge, shelter consultations, disease outbreak interventions, and our local community cat program. And while we’ve been adapting our own programs to this new reality, we were also contributing to urgent industry-wide requirements for guidance on sheltering, veterinary services, and safety net operations to assure critical needs continued to be met while protecting people and animals throughout a changing year.
Looking forward, we identified and prepared for looming threats associated with a veterinary workforce shortage, increasing shelter animal intake in the face of decreasing adoptions and fosters, clogged animal transfer capacity, strained spay/neuter activity, and a surge in infectious disease outbreaks, particularly canine distemper. It’s been both a challenging and productive year helping animal welfare organizations stay one step ahead. Despite the challenges, we take pride in the team’s accomplishments as 2021 comes to a close. It truly would not have been possible without all of the people who support our vision.
We are especially proud of our veterinary students, who have remained fiercely committed to their studies for careers in shelter medicine:
- 281 veterinary students completed 7 shelter medicine courses.
- 34 veterinary students from KSU and MU joined our online offerings.
- 23 veterinary students completed 46 hands-on shelter medicine externships at 19 shelters and spay/neuter clinics.
- 3,434 spays and neuters were competed by veterinary students in the Operation Catnip community cat program.
- 23 veterinary students graduated with Maddie’s Professional Certificate in Shelter Medicine.
And it wasn’t just our veterinary students who persevered. Veterinarians and shelter professionals also joined our continuing education programs:
- 88 working professionals completed our resilience-building course Compassion Fatigue Strategies.
- 29 veterinarians, residents, interns, veterinary students, and managers participated in 11 shelter assessment mentorships designed for future industry leaders.
- Our 2 graduating interns accepted shelter veterinarian positions, and 2 new interns arrived.
- We co-founded a national leadership team to address the critical shortage of shelter veterinarians.
We enjoyed some special achievements this year:
- We helped Florida shelters achieve their highest lifesaving milestone ever — 87% live outcomes statewide!
- Dr. Levy was promoted to Distinguished Professor, “a rare distinction reserved for those faculty judged to be in the top echelon of their discipline.” She is only the third faculty member in the College of Veterinary Medicine to achieve this rank since the college was founded.
- 3 million more cats have been saved in shelters since our Million Cat Challenge began.
- We joined Good Fix Hawaii, a free spay/neuter program for owned and community cats aimed at reducing the total cat outdoor population to protect Hawaii’s critical wildlife.
- We brought back the first large-scale TNR clinic at the vet school since the pandemic began with a new course called Community Cat Management. The course taught our future veterinarians how to set up and run high-quality high-impact TNR programs, with a grand finale MASH clinic in which more than 200 cats were spayed, neutered, and vaccinated at no cost for local residents.
We worked directly with shelters to solve their most pressing issues:
- We performed 11 shelter consultations impacting 60,000 animals nationwide.
- Dr. Crawford led 25 shelters out of deadly disease outbreaks impacting more than 5,000 animals in 11 states and Puerto Rico.
We maintained our momentum in critical issue research, policy making, and international continuing education:
- We published 8 scientific papers, impacting the way shelters manage FeLV infection in cats, diagnose heartworm infection in dogs, and create humane community cat programs that protect cats, wildlife, and neighborhoods.
- We presented 22 conference sessions and webinars to professional audiences.
- We contributed to multiple COVID-related guidance documents in collaboration with NACA, HASS, AVMA, and CDC.
- We published 5 textbook chapters on shelter medicine, infectious diseases, and spay/neuter.
- We continue to lead and develop lessons in the Fear Free Shelters program, which has enrolled more than 40,000 participants across the globe.
Our favorite story of the year came last week from Houston:
Our program, headed up by the dauntless Dr. Crawford, answered the call to assist 16 shelters this year with distemper outbreaks. One of those shelters was BARC in Houston, and one of the dogs hit by the outbreak was Lorenzo. With a little help from Santa, he’s having the happiest of happy endings!
Lorenzo was one of the index cases for the distemper outbreak at BARC that started July 4th. He was transferred from BARC by Rescued Pets Movement, a dog transport nonprofit in Houston. He stayed in a foster home for recovery. After 5 months, he finally stopped shedding virus, and as you see from the pictures, rode with Santa to his new home in Colorado last week.
We heard from RPM’s Kiersten Thoma, who wrote, “Thank you for all you did for RPM, BARC, our rescue partners, and everyone in between. It is unanimously agreed upon that without you, we would have lost so many pets and rescue partners. You took the time to teach us the right way to track, treat, and move forward. We worked to follow your guidance and without fail, we made it through with so few casualties. On top of all this, you are still available to me (and a lot of rescue partners of ours) at the drop of a hat. The amount of time and effort you have spent with us alone is astounding and so very appreciated. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving so many lives.”
You can help make our work possible with a gift to Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program.
Thank you for all you’ve done for cats, dogs, and the people who love them in this unprecedented time. We hope that you and your loved ones stay safe and strong and welcome in a wonderful new year in 2022.