First of its Kind in the Nation
A dream came true at the Oregon Humane Society with the official opening of the nation’s first Animal Medical and Learning Center. The September 18, 2007 ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the beginning of a new era of round-the-clock medical care for shelter animals at a state-of-the-art hospital adjoining the existing shelter.
Staff and students didn’t wait until the formal ribbon-cutting ceremony to start work. Since arriving in early September, the OHS medical team has performed 224 surgeries in less than three weeks. Those procedures included mending a kitten’s fractured femur, operating on a Lhassa Apso with a cancerous tumor, and removing a life-threatening bladder stone from a Maltese.
The medical facility is a one-of-a-kind partnership between OHS and the Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Students from OSU will complete a two-week residency at the center as part of their graduation requirement. The students – as many as six at a time – will live in dorms above the medical center and work with a full-time OSU faculty member and OHS medical staff.
Helping Shelter Animals
“This is the ultimate win-win situation for the students and animals,” said Sharon Harmon, OHS executive director. “We’ll keep the OSU students plenty busy with everything from diagnoses to surgery.” By treating and healing pets faster, Harmon predicted that OHS would be able to reduce the average animal’s stay by 20 percent.
About 10,000 animals a year come through OHS, and about half of those will need spay and neuter surgery at the new clinic. Another 1,000 animals will likely require additional care in the center, particularly foster animals. Foster animals are usually too young to be adopted or have special medical needs.
Before the new center was reality, OHS animals traveled daily to vets around the Portland area who were generous enough to make room in their schedules. The 4,000 sq. ft. medical area includes examination and surgery rooms, digital imaging capabilities, an animal behavior program and additional capacity for standard and critical care.
Upstairs are dormitory rooms, and having students so close by is exceptionally convenient, said Kris Otteman, OHS director of shelter medicine.
“We’ll put them to work,” said Otteman. “And this is exactly the kind of experience that will make students into better professionals – learning about high volume, high quality medicine and surgery in a state-of-the-art facility.”
The new 22,000 sq. ft. center also includes a major expansion of the shelter's animal learning programs. Tanya Roberts, OHS behavior specialist, now can use a large indoor “arena” to conduct behavior classes for pets and their owners. “Behavior problems are the number one reason dogs are admitted to the shelter, and until now, we have simply lacked the space to expand our programs,” she said.
The arena will also be used for the OHS Animal Assisted Interactions (AAI) program, which helps pets and their handlers gain the skills to be certified therapy animals for hospitals and nursing homes. The OHS program is the nation’s first prep school for AAI animals.
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