August 21, 2018
Categories: Collaboration
veterinarian with cat

A new article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association says private practice veterinarians have the power to help end pet homelessness and euthanasia in their communities.

Relations between private practice veterinarians and shelters/rescue organizations experience challenges in many communities. However, the influx of younger veterinarians combined with the explosive growth in the number of pets acquired from adoption organizations over the last decade are helping members of the two groups realize they’re natural allies in their care for pets.

In a past Maddie’s Fund webinar, we took a look at ways both animal organizations and private practice veterinarians can see each other’s point of view and work together. Now, in a powerful opinion piece in the AVMA’s prestigious journal, authors Sam Phillips, Dr. Zarah Hedge and Dr. Jose Peralta wrote:

The statistics have been improving in recent years; still, more dogs and cats die of homelessness each year than as a result of any preventable disease, and the number of shelter euthanasias can still be lower. In our view, veterinarians have an ethical if not moral obligation to work with shelters to minimize animal suffering and decrease the number of healthy, adoptable animals that are euthanized. Veterinarians in general practice have a direct platform to reach vast numbers of pet owners, but despite their expertise in animal husbandry, development, behavior, and welfare, many of them may not realize how much impact they can have on the numbers of homeless dogs and cats.

What can private practice vets do? Here are the main approaches the authors recommend:

  • Act Promptly and Proactively on Behavior Problems
  • Encourage Early Spaying and Neutering
  • Community Cat Management
  • Sponsor Pet Identification
  • Reduce Fees for Certain Services
  • Actively Engage in Legislative Efforts

“Initiating discussions with local shelter directors and shelter veterinarians can be a good first step for any veterinarian wishing to become involved,” they added. “Areas for improvement can be identified and ranked so that issues likely to have the highest local impact are given priority while still considering the veterinarian’s skills and resources and the shelter’s specific needs. In the clinic, a discussion with the entire staff may greatly expand the ability to reduce the numbers of homeless dogs and cats, as technicians and receptionists can be tasked with routine distribution of relevant resources to clients.”

The complete article is available to JAVMA subscribers at the link below. Non-subscribers may be able to obtain access through an academic institution, by paying a fee, or by emailing Dr. Peralta at .

Sam C. Phillips BSC; Zarah Hedge DVM, MPH; Jose M. Peralta DVM, PhD; The role of private practitioners in reducing numbers of homeless dogs and cats and shelter euthanasia rates. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, August 15, 2018, Vol. 253, No. 4, Pages 404-408.