A volunteer program that gives low-income pet owners access to routine checkups for their cats and dogs and helps train veterinary students in real-world settings turns 20 this fall.
The Southside Community Center/Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine Well Pet Clinic provides physical exams, vaccinations, flea and tick medication, and tests and guidance for heartworms, skin issues and other disorders. If serious conditions are identified, clients are referred to Ithaca-area veterinarians.
To help fund and keep the clinic running into the future, a celebratory fundraiser featuring local artists will take place Nov. 15 from 6 to 10 p.m. at Ithaca’s State Theatre with proceeds going to the Southside Community Center and the clinic program. The featured performer is Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, nationally known veterinarian, Animal Planet star and stand-up comic. Tickets range from $10 to $30.
“We serve a population of folks who unfortunately often cannot afford preventive medical care to their pets, so we are filling a need in the community that’s difficult to meet,” said Dr. Dan Fletcher, associate professor of emergency and critical care and one of the program’s faculty advisers.
Clinics are run every second and fourth Wednesday of the month starting at 6 p.m. at the Southside Community Center. There is a two-pet maximum per visit at $20 per pet. The program expanded from one to two clinics per month a few years ago and also offers traveling clinics twice a year. The next one is Nov. 13 at the Onondaga Nation near Syracuse.
The program is run by eight veterinary student directors from the College of Veterinary Medicine. Each clinic brings in up to 25 student volunteers – mostly first- and second-year students who are closely supervised by faculty and local veterinarians. Volunteers work in groups of two or three, while serving up to 40 pets per clinic.
“Students gain confidence and develop communication skills” early in their four-year training, said Abby Davenport, a second-year veterinary student and one of the program’s student directors. She added that since the exams are often routine, student volunteers can focus on their bedside manners and communication while conducting a thorough physical exam.