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Animal Care Services
Animal Care Blog

Shelter Animals Deserve Care Too… And They Get It
 Posted: 02/21/18 1:37 PM by Shelly Simmons

Rosco, like many animals at our shelter, is a survivor. He had extensive wounds to the left side of his face when he was brought to Animal Care. Despite his very painful injuries, this amazing dog greeted our medical staff wagging his tail and eagerly welcomed our gentle hands to pet him. I don’t think we ever get used to how remarkable it is when an animal with this serious of an injury can still be so responsive and loving to everyone. It says so much about the animal-human bond.

Every single day at Animal Care, we meet pets like Rosco who walk into our shelter and our hearts; who not only need massive amounts of our love, but also our medical care and attention, to recover and have a second chance at life. Addressing their medical issues can be a challenge—the most difficult of those challenges being how to diagnose and treat them with the limited resources available to our medical staff.

While many animals entering Animal Care’s doors will be healthy and easily adoptable, about 15-20% of the pets coming in will need something more than preventative medical care. These pets have likely been living most of their lives with their medical needs unmet, some never having received any form of medical treatment. These are the most vulnerable animals we see entering our shelter and they require the most care.

Our focus at Animal Care is on delivering meaningful—not marginalized—care to the homeless animals that enter our facility. It always catches me off guard that people are surprised to find out that we have an entire team of medical professionals on staff. We have six veterinarians and close to twenty trained veterinary assistants/technicians/supervisors who make up our medical team. Not only do they deliver the traditional high-quality, low-cost spay/neuter surgeries that everyone has come to expect with an animal shelter, but they also focus on shelter medicine, which means that we are looking at population health management with an emphasis on infectious disease control and prevention. But we don’t stop there. We also look at behavior assessment and environmental enrichment.

In an animal shelter, medical staff has to know how to give just the right amount of individual attention while also providing great care to the shelter’s population of 200-500 animals at a time. This can be tough for several reasons. First, most of the animals come to us without any kind of known medical history. They might be victims of animal cruelty, neglect, or abuse. They may have been wandering for long periods of time and are severely malnourished. They may be extremely wary of humans—some are even feral. They may have been exposed to diseases prior to entering our shelter that we aren’t aware of when they come to us. They have all had different life experiences. We often don’t know what those are, so they may suffer from behavior problems that will need our help to solve.

Together with our medical support staff, we care for thousands of animals every year who need special care. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide that care. What is the care that I speak of?

It’s everything you might take your own pet to the vet for and much, much more.

  • They come in sick with “animal colds.” We treat them with antibiotics.
  • They have red and itchy skin. We give them the medicine so their skin doesn’t itch and it isn’t sore anymore.
  • They have ear infections. We clean their ears and treat the infection.
  • They have lumps and bumps on their bodies. We x-ray them, surgically remove them, and even test for cancer if necessary.
  • They have wounds. We clean and stitch them back up.
  • They are tested and found to have heartworm disease. We treat them for the disease.
  • They come in hit by a car with broken bones. We ease their pain, x-ray them, and either repair them here at our clinic or send them to another clinic that can repair them.
  • They have been chained outside, forgotten, and found with a collar embedded in their neck. We sedate them, surgically remove the collar, clean the wound, and care for them until they make a full recovery.
  • They are found emaciated, skin and bones, dehydrated and barely alive. We rehydrate them, hand feed them small meals multiple times per day and give them the care they need until they have regained their ideal body weight to be adopted.

We can employ the greatest, hardest working medical team for our homeless pets at Animal Care but still not be able to provide them with the most meaningful care that we can give here. There are other barriers to great care and those obstacles include SPACE and FUNDS.

Open admission shelters struggle to have the space needed to keep animals for long lengths of time. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a longer period of time for sick and injured animals to heal. When we run into this dilemma, we rely on the assistance of our local and regional animal rescue groups and other humane organizations to step up and take these animals that need extensive surgeries and/or longer term care. Together, this is how we build a NO KILL community.

If you have ever owned a pet of your own, you know how expensive pet care can be. It’s no different for us. It costs a lot of money to treat thousands of animals every year at Animal Care. We rely heavily on our Second Chance Fund to provide us with the supplementary funding to give the specialized care these animals need, and that means we rely on YOU. Together, this is how we build our NO KILL community.

Together, this is how we save dogs like Rosco…who we now know is a lover of playing fetch, who has come to really enjoy being hand-fed his meals by the staff, and who is now up for adoption and looking for a new family to love and lavish with sloppy kisses.