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Veterinary Health Center

Shelter Medicine Anniversary

College of Veterinary Medicine Mobile Surgery Unit Saves Thousands of Lives in First Year

Students with patientsThe College of Veterinary Medicine is celebrating the one year anniversary of the Shelter Medicine Mobile Surgery Unit led by assistant professor, Dr. Brad Crauer.

The Mobile Surgery Unit took its maiden voyage on May 9th, 2015 with Dr. Crauer, three fourth year veterinary students and a veterinary technician, to spay and neuter unowned pets at an area shelter. Students spend two weeks on the rotation, providing surgery and veterinary care at no cost to participating shelters. The Mobile Surgery Unit spent 218 days on the road in its first year. Each day on the road, students packed and loaded the 32-foot trailer with supplies for the day, traveled up to two hours to reach participating shelters, using travel time as class and lecture time to improve their knowledge of shelter medicine, procedures and the unique aspects of working with unowned animals. Once they arrived at the shelter, they performed surgeries under the guidance of Dr. Crauer and Ron Orchard, licensed veterinary technician, toured the facilities and had consultations with shelter managers, then returned home, only to start again the next day.

The Mobile Surgery Unit regularly visited 12 area shelters within a two hour radius of Manhattan over the past year. Students are exposed to each shelters’ unique processes and challenges. “By the end of the rotation, hopefully the students have gained a greater knowledge and appreciation for shelter medicine and use that to make a difference in the communities they become a part of after graduation,” Dr. Crauer said.

“The impact of this program for students is truly remarkable,” Dr. Kyla Krissek, shelter medicine intern, said. “Not only do we have the opportunity to strengthen our surgical skills, but more importantly, we learn about different shelter missions, the obstacles shelters face every day, and how we as veterinarians can become advocates for homeless animals in our communities.”

Students are not the only beneficiaries. Veterinary care, especially spays and neuters, make up a large portion of a shelter’s operating expense. Since the students perform surgery at no cost, shelters are saving between $50-175 per animal, a significant savings when considering hundreds of animals. Shelters also have the advantage of regular professional consultations from Dr. Crauer and his team.

Prairie Paws Animal Shelter in Ottawa, Kansas realized a great impact on their shelter since they partnered with the Mobile Surgery Unit. “The partnership with K-State was tremendous for us,” Melissa Reed, executive director, said. “I don’t have data to prove it, but I do think that if we had not had that relationship with K-State, I don’t think we would be here today.”

The program has already expanded to include not only shelter pets, but stray cats in a Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR) initiative. In its first year of operation, the Mobile Surgery Unit performed 3,499 surgeries saving countless lives by preventing unwanted pregnancies.

“The success of the program and its impact on the students, shelters and the pets in communities across central Kansas has been amazing. We expect the Shelter Medicine Program to continue to grow and do even more in the coming year,” Dr. Crauer said.

The Mobile Surgery Unit is supported by private gifts and a grant from PetSmart Charities. If you would like to support the Mobile Surgery Unit, please contact the Veterinary Health Center at Kansas State University by calling Kristin Loving at 785-532-4046.