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New Ontario organization focuses on shelter medicine

A new organization launched last summer recognizes the growing importance of shelter medicine.

The brain child of a committed group of veterinarians, including faculty and alumni of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph, the Ontario Shelter Medicine Association  will offer support to shelter veterinarians, through networking and continuing education opportunities, as well as promoting best practices.

Led by Dr. Linda Jacobson, Deputy Director of Shelter Medicine with the Toronto Humane Society, discussions started a couple of summers ago to see if this sort of organization could be a reality in Canada, says OVC associate professor Dr. Shane Bateman, a clinician in the OVC Health Sciences Centre Emergency and Critical Care Service.

The group held a brainstorming session in conjunction with the 2016 Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, followed by a meeting at the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, before launching the new organization at the 2016 Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.

Throughout the group received plenty of participation and encouragement, adds Bateman.

In the U.S., the Association of Shelter Veterinarians is very influential from an academic and research perspective, as well as setting guidelines for standard of care in shelter medicine, says Bateman.

The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies wanted to create similar national standards in Canada, turning to a group of national stakeholders for guidance. The organization decided the U.S. guidelines were so well done they accepted them with minor adaptations.

“Hats off to Linda Jacobson who set this in motion,” says Bateman. She graduated from veterinary school in South Africa but completed VSTEP at OVC and is now settled in Ontario.

In addition to Jacobson and Bateman, the Ontario Shelter Medicine Association committee includes: Dr. Stephanie Black, OVC 2007, Toronto Humane Society; Dr. Danielle Boes, OVC 2013, Toronto Humane Society; Dr. Johanna Booth, OVC 2007, who manages the volunteer trap-neuter-return programme of the Toronto Feral Cat Coalition; Darci Burtch, RVT; Dr. Wendy Ing; Dr. LeeAnn Sealey, OVC 1993, KW Humane Society; and Dr. Karen Ward OVC 1990, Director of Shelter Medicine at the Toronto Humane Society.

The group is currently enrolling additional members.

There are increased expectations of animal welfare organizations and shelters, the people who work in them and the role of veterinarians in meeting these expectations, says Bateman. Few shelters can employ a full-time veterinarian. Most have a veterinarian who works part time in small and large ways.

For Bateman, this is a natural extension of his ongoing work in veterinary medicine. “I’ve always been interested in the traditional relationship between vet and client, but also how vets can benefit society and marginalized communities and the animals living in those marginalized communities.”

(Photo: Dr. Shane Bateman, Ontario Veterinary College)