Doctor’s Orders: Create Change

By on February 6, 2009 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Last January here on the blog I announced the creation of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA), an HSUS affiliate that allows veterinarians with a keen interest in animal welfare to advance hands-on and advocacy programs to help animals.  While we enjoy strong relations with a number of veterinary associations—including the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, the American Animal Hospital Association, the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), and others—we’ve been disappointed that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) far too often takes positions at odds with animal protection.

© The HSUS

For example, the AVMA tried to undermine the passage of Proposition 2 in California (and even worked against the CVMA, the state’s largest and oldest veterinary group, which supported the ballot initiative), has long opposed federal legislation to ban horse slaughter, and also stands against the effort to phase out the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics on factory farms—a practice that allows industrial farms to overcrowd animals in cramped and inhumane conditions, promoting the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

In short, HSVMA was created to put veterinarians back in a leadership position in advocating for animal welfare.

While HSVMA members are working on a wide range of advocacy efforts, they also take part in hands-on programs to help animals. Our HSVMA Field Services program sends teams to underdeveloped and impoverished areas where families rarely have access to veterinarians, bringing free veterinary services to animals in need and educating local caregivers about the importance of basic health care, preventative medicine, and proper handling techniques.

At the clinics, HSVMA staff also help to train students—from 20 veterinary schools in the United States and Europe, so far—in surgery, anesthesia, pain management, and humane animal handling. The students get a unique opportunity to travel to remote areas, interact with people with limited exposure to animal welfare ethics, and offer their services to those who need it most. And we’ve heard time and time again from students that the pay-off—stronger technical skills and the satisfaction from helping others—is priceless.

With each Field Services clinic, HSVMA affects the lives of many. On a typical multi-day site visit we’ll provide up to 300 vaccinations per day and 30-60 surgeries (spaying, neutering, and other procedures). In 2008 alone, more than $1 million worth of free veterinary care was delivered to 6,500 animals.

A note was recently passed along to me from Tom Parker, a veterinarian from New Mexico who has been a longtime HSVMA participant, and I wanted to post it here today. Dr. Parker was part of a deployment to Nicaragua.

We had a very successful trip from my point of view. LOTS of horses. The turnout on Omotepe was much better than last year and the turnout in Granada was huge as well. My guess would be that we reached nearly 500 horses and taught the owners the beginnings of the importance of routine health care and humane handling of their horses.

The students on this trip were also a new wrinkle for me … All from Central America and all of them intend to stay and practice there. Seeing [HSVMA] reach those people was really one of those "this is what it's all about" moments … Kim and Mario will be practicing in Costa Rica, Fernando is already practicing in San Juan Del Sur and learned a huge amount, Heidi is going to school in Managua and will stay in Granada, and Buonerge from El Bote is the resource for his extremely remote area … all good stuff.

Make sure to talk to your own vet about joining HSVMA.  Over time, it will continue to be a force for animal protection.


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