Webinar presenters Dr. Kris Otteman, Linda Fielder, and Emily Lewis answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Preserving the Bond and Preventing Cruelty: The Veterinarian’s Role. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: Could you share this study that states that not being able to afford care is the number one reason that animal for animal surrenders to shelters?
Linda Fielder: Sure. if you would like to send me an e-mail, Lorna, I’d be happy to share that with you.
Host: Fantastic. I may end up following up with you, here so that we can share that with the rest of the community as well.
Audience Question: It is not just the public who don’t have the money to care for animals. Many counties do not have any money to treat animals in county shelters. Further, in many counties, there’s no money to get forensic exams or necropsies done in animal abuse cases. Do you know of any grants available that specifically provide monies for such examinations or such assistance or do you have any other suggestions to help?
Emily Lewis: As far as forensic exams go, the Animal Legal Defense Fund does offer grants for not just forensic exams, but also the costs, and caring for those animals as they’re awaiting their trial to go through. So, feel free to e-mail me through my address there, or that Action one e-mail address if you’re in that situation, and looking for that assistance.
Dr. Kris Otteman: I’ll pitch in a little bit about resources for shelters. I realize that government shelters often may not have the budget for veterinary care. I think that there’s a couple of things that can be done. One, look to ASPCA HSUS and the Association of Shelter Vets for guidelines about standards of care and best practices in shelters. Many of the things that can be done in animal control agencies today can be done without the direct expertise of a veterinarian. If you have a liaison that can help look at the standards and look at the ideas for improving the care of the animals within the shelter, that would be one idea. And then, secondarily, I think just the grassroots effort within every community to seek out veterinarians, veterinary technicians, or people affiliated with a community practice that would be willing to serve on a board or a task force to help with that collaboration on just even basic things like vaccine protocol.
Linda Fielder: I think it’s a matter of, you know, just the way that the industry has systematically over the years picked the problem and then chipped away at that problem until it’s under control. The most recent example of that would be for a lot of communities, unaltered animals, or spay-neuter resources within the community. And like I said in the presentation, I think once that’s tackled there, once that’s considered under control, the next might be, how can animal shelters or animal control agencies do more for the animals that do end up in their care. And that, you know, again, is one of the next big topics that are going to have to be examined, and that everyone is going to have to tackle as we get into a more humane outlook for animals nationwide.
Audience Question: How are prosecutors supposed to deal with poverty and neglect, such as your example of the brothers? So, I suspect, Emily, this one is for you, and it’s a great point, what discretion to prosecutors have? And what would you recommend?
Emily Lewis: Well, I would encourage this person to also contact me directly because the Animal Legal Defense Fund has a lot of resources for prosecutors, and the various ways that they can work on cases and resolve the issues. And it might be that prosecution ends up happening. But there can be ways that they handle their cases, sentencing, and sometimes even before they’re filing charges that can work to address the problem without it resulting in a criminal charge, or at least without it, resulting in a criminal charge that’s lasting on someone’s permanent record.
Audience Question: What are some of the more creative ways that you’ve seen the profession respond to issues that animals and their humans are facing, particularly during this current economic environment?
Dr. Kris Otteman: I think one thing that’s really interesting is the way animal shelters and animal control agencies are responding by expansion of foster care within communities, basically, housing animals outside of shelters during this year. The innovation that came out of needing to get animals out of shelters resulted in things like virtual adoptions, expansion of foster care like I mentioned. We’re also seeing an emergence of new types of delivery of veterinary care. Telehealth for example seen veterinary practices and shelter medicine developing ways that people can get online, and get basic help and information, is a new and creative way that I think will now last. And the other thing that I’ve seen is an expansion of community resources. There are a number of places around the country now that are engaged in social work, activity within the veterinary practice, or within a shelter. The creation of those partnerships is really expanding that grassroots effort to deal with the cause of neglect or poverty, or the human condition that’s resulting and creating the animal suffering, So, those are just a few of the things. We’ll see what else comes along, but it’s pretty exciting to see those developments in such a short period of time.
Audience Question: Desiree has asked, during my time as a veterinary assistant, I saw cases for the elderly who had a hard time accessing veterinary care due to physical disabilities, finances, etc. Do you think there’s a need to educate social services workers on basic knowledge and understanding of what to look out for and where to turn to get help for the elderly?
Linda Fielder: I spoke just for a second, on, I think it was the Hoarder slide, about a community approach to dealing with people who are experiencing animal hoarding. That community approach is really important in so many aspects of dealing with marginalized individuals. As a vet clinic, one of the most important things that the clinic and staff can do is become aware themselves of what exists in their community in terms of resources and services for the elderly, for the disabled, for veterans, as far as mental health resources go. So that when you see someone you think should benefit from one of those resources, you can be an instigator of that relationship. And absolutely the same thing goes for people who work in mental health and domestic human services. Those people absolutely need to know who to contact, if they’re doing a home visit, or they’re providing care for a human, who has animals that are at risk in the home, and knowing who they should contact to reach out to get resources for that.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Preserving the Bond and Preventing Cruelty: The Veterinarian’s Role.