Athens, Ga. – A student-led and faculty-supported volunteer outreach project from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine was recently recognized for its efforts to heighten awareness about the link between animal abuse and domestic violence, and to provide help for victims who own companion animals.
“Vets for Pets and People” was named “Advocate of the Year” for 2010 by the Domestic Violence Task Force of Athens-Clarke and Oconee Counties.
“We are honored to be recognized by the Domestic Violence Task Force of Athens,” said Dr. Kate Creevy, an assistant professor of small animal medicine and co-founder of the group.”Our students, staff and faculty are committed to increasing awareness within our profession about the link between animal abuse and domestic violence, and to providing support for the pets of individuals seeking refuge from their abusers.”
“Vets for Pets and People” was launched in 2009 by Drs. Creevy and Karen Cornell with the help of a $5,000 Scholarship of Engagement Grant from UGA.
Creevy and Cornell said they first learned of the link and the problem on a national scale from a friend who is a social worker.At the same time, another friend was participating in the “Dancing with Athens Stars” competition, an annual fundraiser benefitting Project Safe, a local non-profit organization providing services to victims of domestic violence.
“These two events sparked our interest to investigate what we could do as veterinarians to help,” said Creevy.
The grant money provided funding to develop and print two brochures that students distribute to veterinarians throughout Georgia.One brochure is designed to help veterinarians identify animals that may be experiencing abuse, as well as to increase awareness that clients who are victims of domestic violence may turn to veterinarians with questions about safety for their pets if they seek refuge for themselves.The second brochure targets the general public as well as clients who may be involved in an abusive relationship.Both brochures contain information on where to seek help and facts on the links between the two types of abuse.
To help promote their mission and encourage Georgia’s veterinarians to utilize the brochures, Cornell, Creevy and veterinary students are reaching out to the college’s alumni, local practitioners and practitioners statewide, via the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association.Late last fall, Cornell and Jennifer Trzcinski, a D.V.M student from UGA, gave the keynote address to veterinary professionals at the GVMA Veterinary Conference.
“This project has provided our students with a unique service learning opportunity,” noted Cornell, a professor of small animal medicine and surgery.”In addition to raising awareness for our profession and the general public regarding this important problem, students such as Jennifer have increased their own knowledge base surrounding this topic and practiced the skills needed to convey this information to colleagues.”
To help boost awareness among veterinarians on a national level, Creevy gave an address on the project, its goals and objectives to the fall meeting of the North American Veterinary College Administrators, which represents all 31 veterinary colleges in North America.Creevy and Cornell hope their presentation will encourage other institutions to participate in similar programs.
“Our long term goal is to create a self-sustaining program through the support of fundraising and partnership with our colleagues in the industry,” said Creevy.”Students recently sponsored a fundraiser called ‘No Shave November,’ a 30-day period during which participants did not shave.So-called ‘growers’ paid an entry fee and raised money from supporters who designated which participant could grow the fullest beard within the time period.The event raised approximately $1600 dollars in support of ‘Vets for Pets and People,’ and students are working now to develop a fundraiser for spring.”
In addition to promoting greater awareness, faculty and student volunteers involved with the program work closely with Project Safe to provide foster care to animals whose owners have sought temporary shelter from domestic violence. Kendall Sawyer Flynt, a UGA student in the College of Veterinary Medicine, was the first “fosterer” in the Vets for Pets and People program.”My husband and I kept an older dog and a puppy for a domestic abuse victim while she was sheltered at Project Safe,” said Flynt.”The owner missed her animals very much, so we were able to work out discreet and anonymous visitations for her to see her older dog.It was good for her to know that everything was going well for beloved pets.”
“Years and years ago when we were talking to people on the hotline, we’d have to say, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have a way to take care of your pet. We can try to help you find somewhere,'” said Joan Prittie, executive director of Project Safe.”Since we started working with the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, we can ask, ‘Are you worried about any pets?’ because we now have the resources to do something about it.”
In 2009, because of the help available from “Vets for Pets and People” volunteers, Project Safe provided 220 nights of pet shelter for victims of domestic violence.
To inquire about brochures or for more information about “Vets for Pets and People,” contact the college’s Public Relations office at 706/583-5485.Persons interested in making a donation to the program may contact the college’s development office at 706/542-1807.
The UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, founded in 1946, is dedicated to training future veterinarians, to conducting research related to animal and human diseases, and to providing veterinary services for animals and their owners.Research efforts are aimed at enhancing the quality of life for animals and people, improving the productivity of poultry and livestock, and preserving a healthy interface between wildlife and people in the environment they share.The college enrolls 102 students each fall out of more than 560 who apply.For more information, see www.vet.uga.edu.