Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine's Priority 4 Paws to benefit animal shelters, students

July 25, 2012  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University's College of Veterinary Medicine is ready to roll out Priority 4 Paws, a program featuring a mobile surgery unit that will be taken to animal shelters to spay and neuter shelter pets up for adoption.

The program, scheduled to begin July 30 when the mobile unit will go out for the first time, also will help train veterinary medicine students, said Lyn Freeman, a veterinarian and associate professor of veterinary clinical sciences.

"The program has three goals. One is to provide care for the shelters," said Freeman, who also is the program's coordinator. "We hope to do 5,000 or more surgeries a year and that those animals will be adopted by new owners who will bring the pets to local veterinarians for future medical care. The second goal is to provide practical surgical experience for our students.

"Lastly, we want to instill in the students a philanthropic spirit so that when they graduate they will want to help animal shelters wherever they work."

Donors for the mobile surgery unit include PetSmart Charities, the Tony Stewart Foundation, the Ryan Newman Foundation, Midmark, Purdue University and LifeLine Mobile.

"Priority 4 Paws is a ground-breaking initiative that furthers our commitment to shelter medicine by enhancing our ability to help animal shelters in Indiana," said Willie M. Reed, a veterinarian and dean of the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. "As Indiana's only college of veterinary medicine, we are excited to launch this program to provide needed spay and neuter surgeries for shelter animals while also improving educational opportunities for our students."

Fourth-year veterinary medicine students will have the opportunity to choose a three-week elective rotation in shelter medicine and surgery. They will work two weeks in the mobile unit and then one week in a shelter, Freeman said. There will be two to four students in the unit at any one time.

Nancy Ferguson, a veterinarian and small animal shelter medicine clinician hired by Purdue's veterinary medical teaching hospital, will work with the students.

"Our best resource is the enthusiasm of the students for what we're going to do," Ferguson said.

Ferguson and Carrie McCoy, a Purdue veterinary technician working with the program, will travel to shelters with the students four days a week, Freeman said. Each shelter will provide a list of patients and will bring them to the mobile unit, where the surgeries will be performed. People at the shelters will be trained on handling the recovery.

The unit will stay within approximately 115 miles of West Lafayette, at least at the beginning of the program.

Need and other criteria were used to select shelter participants in the program.

"We held an open house in February and shelter representatives came to find out more about the program," Ferguson said. "They filled out questionnaires and based on those and visits to the shelters, we selected the initial 11 shelters we're working with."

Freeman and Ferguson have worked closely with Annette Litster, a veterinarian and assistant professor of small animal medicine, in setting up the program.

"She is the director of the Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program in the college, which helps educate and train students about shelter medicine and the needs of shelter animals," Freeman said. "This program helps build excitement and passion for ending pet homelessness."

Freeman and Ferguson said Purdue will be one of just five universities with a mobile unit program. The others are the University of North Carolina, Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University and Western University of Health Sciences in California.

The man who helped start one of those, Philip Bushby, a veterinarian and the Marcia Lane Endowed Professor of Humane Ethics and Animal Welfare at Mississippi State, assisted Purdue's efforts.

"Dr. Bushby inspired us to begin the project and helped us all along the way," Freeman said. "He got us started and helped us all along the way. He's been a great mentor."

Writer: Greg McClure, 765-497-9611, gmcclure@purdue.edu

Sources: Willie Reed, 765-494-7608, wreed@purdue.edu

               Kevin Doerr, director of alumni relations and public affairs for College of Veterinary Medicine, 765-494-8216, doerrkr@purdue.edu

               Lyn Freeman, 765-494-0339, ljfreema@purdue.edu

               Nancy Ferguson, fergus36@purdue.edu

               Becky Hershey, director of development for College of Veterinary Medicine, 765-494-5032, bhershey@purdue.edu

               Annette Litster, 765-418-3186, catvet@purdue.edu

               Mimi Arighi, director of Veterinary Teaching Hospital, 765-494-7235, arighi@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Reporters and photographers are invited to attend an event on Friday (July 27) at the College of Veterinary Medicine where the Priority 4 Paws mobile unit will be on display. Those interested in attending are asked to call Kevin Doerr, director of alumni relations and public affairs for the college, at 765-494-8216 or Greg McClure, Purdue News Service, at 765-496-9711. Media unable to attend the July 27 event who want to do a story should contact Doerr or Dr. Lyn Freeman, 765-494-0339, ljfreema@purdue.edu

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