JAVMA News Digest

Animal shelters, control officers aim to be more community-centric

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Dallas Animal Services provided care for pets of owners who were evacuated because of Hurricane Laura In August 2020. Here, a DAS officer returns a dog to its owners along with pet food and supplies outside a DAS vehicle. (Courtesy of Dallas Animal Services)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 82, 5; 10.2460/ajvr.82.5.332

Kristen Hassen, like many people who work in animal shelters, knows pet owners don't relinquish their animals because they want to. Finding solutions to this issue while dealing with overpopulated shelters has been difficult. However, the increase in fostering associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed shelter leaders to do something different.

“We are trying to turn the whole community into an animal shelter,” said Hassen, director of American Pets Alive, a national organization whose goal is to save animals in shelters. “We see the role of animal services evolving. The shelter becomes a last line of defense, but really, the shelter becomes one solution and not the solution.”

JAVMA News spoke with several animal services and shelter leaders about the layered challenges ahead related to the eviction crisis, as well as how the industry is changing the way it interacts with communities and having essential conversations related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Hassen oversees the Human Animal Support Services project, which is a widespread effort to redefine animal services facilitated by American Pets Alive. In late March, the HASS project had 38 pilot shelters across the U.S. and Canada. The project also involves 700 industry experts, from animal welfare leaders to shelter workers to veterinarians. One of the goals of the HASS project is to gather research and create tools aimed at helping animal support services.

The following elements are important parts of the HASS project:

  • Establishing a program to successfully reunify lost pets with their owners.

  • Providing pet support services that give owners access to medical, food, housing, and behavioral support when it is needed.

  • Providing re-homing support so pet owners who can no longer keep their animals can safely re-home them without the pet entering a shelter.

  • Reworking how the physical shelter facility is perceived so it becomes a place solely for emergency care or short-term housing in urgent situations.

  • Modifying how field support or animal control officers provide support, information, access to care, and other resources to the community.

  • Building partnerships locally among human service providers, veterinarians, and rescue groups so the family is treated as a unit.

  • Using a foster-centric model through which animals are placed directly in foster homes hours or days after entering the shelter.

Dr. Jyothi V. Robertson, a board-certified shelter medicine veterinarian, is a principal consultant for the consulting firm Adisa and owns JVR Shelter Strategies. She spends a lot of time thinking about equity issues.

“Marginalized communities and people with lower incomes deserve animals as much as wealthy people, and yet, that has not been the way that shelters have worked,” said Dr. Robertson, who is the chair of the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee. “What does it look like to rethink how we support communities and have happy families with pets?”

She said doing internal anti-racism work and examining implicit biases and the systems that support those biases are important.

For example, ask questions such as the following: Is it supporting the welfare of animals to remove them from a lower-income area and then transfer them to a higher-income area for adoption? Is it right to view something as cruelty or write a citation if assistance or resources may be better for the animal and the pet owner?

Condensed from April 1, 2021, JAVMA News

Survey finds cost, difficulties with access are primary barriers to veterinary care

Survey results suggest dog owners share some understanding across demographics on the conditions for which they would seek veterinary care.

Whether they seek that care is linked with the availability of care, which includes the expected cost of services, ease of transportation to a clinic, clinic hours, and language differences, as well as the owner's trust in veterinarians, according to an article published Jan. 5 in Veterinary Sciences. Those responses varied by dog owners' demographics.

“This finding is in contrast with previous studies, which have maintained an assumption that race and ethnicity are primary predictors in the decision to access veterinary services for companion animals,” the article states.

The authors, a research team from North Carolina State University, conducted a survey of 858 dog-owning adults, who answered questions about whether they would seek veterinary care under 18 circumstances. The respondents also provided demographic data on themselves and their dogs and answered questions about their relationships with their dogs, previous veterinary care, and barriers to using veterinary care.

The results indicate participants overall were most likely to seek veterinary care for their dogs in circumstances such as trauma, poison ingestion, and the need for end-of-life care, and they were least likely to seek care for conditions such as vomiting, diarrhea, and weight gain.

The article is available at jav.ma/barriersurvey.

Condensed from April 1, 2021, JAVMA News

A blueprint for veterinary spaces

Dr. Marty Greer built her first clinic, Veterinary Village, with her husband, Dr. Dan Griffiths, in a bean field in rural Wisconsin. The two later built on to that practice and added a whole new concept—one that included a three-bay garage for clients who may have mobility issues or weather-related concerns such as slipping on ice. Additionally, the garage bays benefit pets that can't be moved or are stressed inside standard examination rooms.

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View of the treatment area at The Parc in Fort Worth, Texas. The examination rooms flank the treatment area, with full glass between them so clients can see exactly what is going on. (Photo by Tim Murphy/Fotoimagery)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 82, 5; 10.2460/ajvr.82.5.332

JAVMA News spoke with several architects and veterinarians about hospital and clinic design trends, including unique offerings such as drive-thru service and glass windows in examination rooms so pet owners can see into treatment areas. The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed how most veterinary practices operate, but according to experts, it has yet to disrupt design trends seen pre-pandemic and has only accelerated existing ones.

For example, Dr. Greer had long wanted to build an entirely drive-thru clinic, but she sat on the idea for nearly seven years. When the pandemic led most veterinary practices to move to curbside service, she was disappointed that her newest veterinary hospital, Checkout Veterinary, wasn't operating yet. Construction on the building, located near Madison, Wisconsin, just finished this March. Dr. Greer says the space was planned to put client comfort and convenience first. It has a four-bay garage and is drive-thru only, with room to expand to four more bays if there is demand.

Dr. Greer hopes to franchise the patented design in the future and thinks that more veterinarians will embrace the idea.

Condensed from April 15, 2021, JAVMA News

Swine veterinarians find disease lessons in COVID-19

Speakers at the American Association of Swine Veterinarians annual meeting in March described efforts to protect people and pigs during the pandemic.

Dr. Larry Coleman, a swine practitioner from Broken Bow, Nebraska, said instances where farm employees didn't comply with measures meant to protect them and their families could provide a warning about their future compliance with controls meant to prevent disease outbreaks in swine. He said leadership is needed during a disease response.

Dr. Paul Yeske, veterinarian for the Swine Vet Center in St. Peter, Minnesota, and Dr. David Bomgaars, president and CEO of RC Family Farms, jointly described COVID-19 control efforts such as staggering worker shifts and breaks, monitoring employee temperatures, cleaning surfaces in offices, and increasing use of telemedicine.

Kim VanderWaal, PhD, an assistant professor of population medicine at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, worked on a model that examined COVID-19 in three slaughter facilities. The results indicated the size of outbreaks in individual plants depended most on spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus within the community and transmission rates within the plant.

Dr. Jack A. Shere, associate administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said containing a disease of animals or people requires a fast, coordinated response.

“The pandemic emphasized how important it is to understand and find effective ways to modify people's attitudes and behaviors to reduce disease spread,” he said. “These same concepts apply to getting producers to understand and use effective livestock biosecurity measures to halt the spread of high-consequence animal diseases.”

Condensed from April 15, 2021, JAVMA News

Industry, agencies continue preparing for African swine fever

African swine fever outbreaks are killing pigs in at least 26 countries, and U.S. veterinarians worry about the potential for incursion into their clients' barns.

In March, veterinarians at the American Association of Swine Veterinarians annual meeting said swine veterinarians and pork industries continue planning how to keep the virus from reaching the U.S. through trade, as well as how to continue raising pigs and selling pork if it does.

ASF kills about 90% of infected pigs. Since 2007, it has spread through the Caucasus region, and the country of Georgia, and into Europe. In 2018, it emerged in China, which is the world's largest pork producer and a supplier of feed ingredients for U.S. pigs.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) reported that, as of mid-February, ASF outbreaks were occurring in 12 countries in Asia, nine in Europe, and five in Africa. OIE officials also published guidelines in February on compart-mentalization within countries, or establishing populations of swine free of the disease and eligible for trade while the national government works toward full eradication.

Veterinarians who spoke at the meeting described the biosecurity measures added on farms in China, such as multiple washings and heat treatments for trucks between deliveries and holding times for supplies arriving on farms, and the ongoing planning for how to respond to any virus incursion.

Condensed from April 15, 2021, JAVMA News

Veterinarians help with COVID-19 vaccine delivery

A mother, grandmother, and toddler were among the multitudes who came to COVID-19 vaccination sites in Nevada in February. The mother had just taken the family dog for vaccines, and she told the toddler that mama would be getting a vaccine. The toddler said, “Just like Duke!”

The person administering the vaccine, Dr. Peggy Shaver, a veterinary medical officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, found the situation to be particularly appropriate, even though she didn't have time to mention that she happens to be a veterinarian.

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Dr. Peggy Shaver, a veterinary medical officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, draws up vaccines in the pharmacy area of an operation administering COVID-19 vaccines in Nevada. (Courtesy of USDA)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 82, 5; 10.2460/ajvr.82.5.332

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service had, as of March 3, deployed 200 employees, including veterinary medical officers and animal health technicians, to help with the COVID-19 vaccine delivery effort. Other USDA agencies also had dispatched 28 veterinarians to assist.

Several states had also begun to include private veterinarians in their vaccination delivery plans. Private veterinarians in these states have volunteered in various roles, from helping with screening to administering vaccines.

On March 11, President Biden announced that his administration would, at the federal level, expand the pool of qualified professionals able to administer shots to include veterinarians and veterinary students, among others.

The Department of Health and Human Services launched a website, available at jav.ma/vaccinationguidance, to help individuals determine whether they are eligible to sign up to volunteer to administer shots. Specific conditions and requirements must be met in order for the authorization to administer the vaccines and the liability protections to apply.

The AVMA has developed additional resources to help those who would like to volunteer, such as guidance on CPR certification and other requirements, available at avma.org/covidvaccine.

Condensed from April 15, 2021, JAVMA News

Idexx contributes $3.6M to Tuskegee veterinary college

The Idexx Foundation, a donor-advised fund from Idexx Laboratories Inc., intends to gift $3.6 million over six years to Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine in Tuskegee, Alabama.

The initiative is designed to promote diversity in the veterinary field and includes nine four-year scholarships in 2021. Tuskegee is the only historically Black university with a veterinary college in the U.S. and has, according to the college, educated more than 70% of the nation's Black veterinarians.

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Tuskegee University veterinary students in a junior surgery class are instructed by Dr. Lorraine Linn (second from left), associate professor of small animal surgery. (Courtesy of Tuskegee University)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 82, 5; 10.2460/ajvr.82.5.332

Tuition and fees for a first-year, in-state student at the veterinary college are about $44,000, according to public data from the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges. Nearly a quarter of first-year students received scholarships during the last academic year, according to the AAVMC's Cost Comparison Tool, and overall, 40.7% of students received a scholarship that year. However, the average scholarship amount for first-year students was only $1,326. Meanwhile, 100% of Tuskegee's veterinary students had debt, with mean debt totaling $82,966.

The foundation's donation will also provide funding for mental health support for veterinary students, capital improvements to facilities, and emergency funding for students in need.

“This is the most impactful contribution that our beloved college has received in our 75 years of existence and recognizes our legacy of work training and educating students of color,” said Dr. Ruby L. Perry, dean of the veterinary college, in a press release.

According to AAVMC public data, nearly 77% of the student population at the veterinary college identifies as coming from groups underrepresented in veterinary medicine.

Condensed from April 1, 2021, JAVMA News

New plan will promote diversity, inclusion in United Kingdom's veterinary profession

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons recently issued its plan for promoting diversity and inclusion at every stage in the United Kingdom's veterinary profession, starting with school-age children who may be considering a career in veterinary medicine.

Published Feb. 17, the RCVS Diversity and Inclusion Group strategy identified six areas where the Royal College and other organizations that form the membership of the Diversity and Inclusion Group will work to make the profession more inclusive.

The RCVS Diversity and Inclusion Group includes representation from, among others, the Association of Veterinary Students, British Veterinary Association, and Veterinary Schools Council. The group is responsible for monitoring and evaluating progress within the six areas on an ongoing basis.

“If we are losing colleagues to discrimination or just not attracting people from diverse backgrounds in the first place because they think it's ‘not for people like them,‘ then we are losing out as a profession, and if we aren't drawing on a diverse range of backgrounds, experiences, and attitudes in our work, then we are also potentially doing a disservice to our patients and clients,” said Dr. Niall Connell, RCVS senior vice president and chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Group. “This is why this strategy is not just a case of being seen to be doing something, but is actually crucial for the ongoing vitality and credibility of the veterinary team.”

To download a PDF of the RCVS strategy, visit jav.ma/RCVSreport.

Condensed from April 15, 2021, JAVMA News

Flea control products may endanger aquatic invertebrates

A research group recently found dangerous levels of insecticides in English rivers and determined flea control products are likely to blame.

The study joins works published in the U.S. and worldwide on environmental contamination with fipronil, fipronil degradates, and imidacloprid, often linking the contamination with flea and tick products applied to pets and passed through sewers. The studies apply to topical products rather than those administered orally.

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Researchers washed dogs treated with topical flea and tick products to measure concentrations of the pesticides washed down drains. (Courtesy of Jennifer Teerlink, PhD/California Department of Pesticide Regulation)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 82, 5; 10.2460/ajvr.82.5.332

An article published Feb. 10 in Science of the Total Environment indicates water samples collected by the U.K. Environment Agency from 20 English rivers almost always contained fipronil and usually contained imidacloprid, both neurotoxic pesticides. The authors, from the University of Sussex, analyzed agency data and found that the mean fipronil concentration was five times the chronic toxicity limit.

While the mean imidacloprid concentration was below its chronic toxicity limit, seven of the 20 rivers had concentrations above the limit.

Previous articles published by U.S.-based teams indicate fipronil and its degradates were ubiquitous in water samples collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, often at concentrations dangerous for chronically exposed aquatic invertebrates; substantial concentrations of fipronil could be washed off dogs weeks after flea and tick product applications; and most of the fipronil and imidacloprid that enters sewage treatment plants passed through them into surface waters, with flea and tick products likely being the primary sources in sewage.

Condensed from April 1, 2021, JAVMA News

American College of Veterinary Microbiologists

Following the certification examination it held remotely on Nov. 20–21, 2020, the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists welcomed new diplomates in the following categories.

Bacteriology/mycology

Hatem H. Kittana, Columbia, Missouri Shivani Ojha, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Narayan C. Paul, College Station, Texas

Sophie E. Peterhans, Zurich

Lutz Schönecker, Oberhausen-Rheinhausen, Germany

Immunology

Khawaja A. Ahmed, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Jeba Jesudoss Chelladurai, Manhattan, Kansas

Ignacio Correas, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Virology

Mohamed A. Abouelkhair, Knoxville, Tennessee

Eman Anis, Chester Springs, Pennsylvania

Hwi-Yeon Choi, Seoul, South Korea

Stephen D. Cole, Philadelphia

Grazieli Maboni, Guelph, Ontario

Santhamani Ramasamy, Kearney, New Jersey

From April 1, 2021, JAVMA News

  • Dallas Animal Services provided care for pets of owners who were evacuated because of Hurricane Laura In August 2020. Here, a DAS officer returns a dog to its owners along with pet food and supplies outside a DAS vehicle. (Courtesy of Dallas Animal Services)

  • View of the treatment area at The Parc in Fort Worth, Texas. The examination rooms flank the treatment area, with full glass between them so clients can see exactly what is going on. (Photo by Tim Murphy/Fotoimagery)

  • Dr. Peggy Shaver, a veterinary medical officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, draws up vaccines in the pharmacy area of an operation administering COVID-19 vaccines in Nevada. (Courtesy of USDA)

  • Tuskegee University veterinary students in a junior surgery class are instructed by Dr. Lorraine Linn (second from left), associate professor of small animal surgery. (Courtesy of Tuskegee University)

  • Researchers washed dogs treated with topical flea and tick products to measure concentrations of the pesticides washed down drains. (Courtesy of Jennifer Teerlink, PhD/California Department of Pesticide Regulation)

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