Vets for Pets and People

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” 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.

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.

“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 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 at 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.

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. “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.