Tuesday, October 6, 2009

This Just In...from North Carolina!

On Monday, October 12th, Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society will open the first Humane Alliance-style spay/neuter clinic in Massachusetts. As part of the Humane Alliance training program, our entire clinic staff is spending the week before opening day at the HA training center in Asheville, North Carolina. What follows is a message from DPVHS Clinic Director, Karina King:

DPVHS's Community Spay/Neuter Clinic team is now halfway through our training week at Humane Alliance in Asheville, North Carolina - getting ready to open our own clinic next week on October 12th.

The Humane Alliance facility is gorgeous - 6 surgical suites with attached prep areas. It's designed as both a working spay/neuter clinic and also as a training facility to show other groups what they have learned over the years (they've now spay/neutered more than 200,000 animals at their own clinic and have helped more than 50 other clinics get started around the United States).

Humane Alliance serves animals within a 90-mile radius of their facility, and the euthanasia rate at their local animal shelter has declined 70% since they began operating. This - the reduction in euthanasia rate at the local shelter - is why we're here, and why DPVHS is opening our own spay/neuter clinic. We can never find homes for the number of animals born in our community; we've got to provide accessible spay/neuter so the number of births - and the number of homeless animals - goes down. It's the only way to lower the number of animals that die for lack of a home in our own neighborhood, the Pioneer Valley.

The professionalism of the veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and staff here is just amazing. I've watched these teams calmly, gently, and with the utmost skill spaying and neutering 25-45 animals per team (one team consists of one vet and 2-3 support staff), with 3-6 teams in action on any given day. Each animal receives only the best of care, but no time or motion is wasted, and constant attention is paid to keeping the day flowing smoothly.

The training program here is very much hands-on. Our training team shows us what to do, then we do it with them, then we do it ourselves with them standing by to assist us if needed and answer our many questions.

Our veterinarian, Dr. Therrien, says it's like being back in veterinary school again - not something she's used to, having been out of school for quite a while now! Although she is an accomplished surgeon with years of surgical experience, Dr. Therrien is learning new knots and suture techniques that have been developed to complete spay and neuter surgeries both safely and in the most efficient way possible.

Our technicians, Crystal and Kristin, and our veterinary assistant, Sara, are learning with veterinary technician Joey and veterinary assistant Shannon. They're learning about administering the type of anesthesia we'll be using, keeping the animals we'll be caring for safe and comfortable - as well as new kinds of medical records and the efficient flow used when you are caring for many more animals per day than veterinarians in private practice do. They're hearing again and again, "treat each pet as if he were your own". And even though we are caring for many pets each day, there's lots of snuggling and "oh my, isn't she cute!".

DPVHS clinic administrator Jodi and I are setting up the computer system we'll be using in the clinic and learning how to take in and send home 30 patients per day. We'll also be learning about running transports to bring in animals from a distance - those whose people cannot bring them to us (we are scheduled to begin transports to the clinic in Phase 2 of DPVHS's 3 Year Plan To Adoption Guarantee). I'll also be learning more about how to ensure that our clinic brings in enough income to cover our costs. Not as much fun as what the rest of my team is doing, but we need to ensure that we will still be around in years to come.

When we return to the Pioneer Valley and open our own clinic on October 12th, a veterinarian and technician from Humane Alliance will be accompanying us. They'll help us take a good look at our own clinic space and configure it most efficiently, help us get set up and started, and share the wisdom they've learned by helping more than 50 other clinics get started before us!

There are two folks from Ohio here at the training center this week, too. Their area is euthanizing way too many animals, and they would like to open a Humane Alliance-style clinic in their area. They're visiting to learn more about the program and see if this type of clinic is right for them. When I hear the Humane Alliance staff having the same conversations with the Ohio visitors that I had with Humane Alliance just this spring I think, "What a long way we've come in such a short time!"

We are grateful to be here with these wonderful people and excited to get back next week and get our own clinic started! The entire clinic staff can't wait to get going at home!

To learn more about Humane Alliance, visit www.humanealliance.org.



  1. I commend you for what you are doing. How are you going to interact with the people and companian animals who need you the most? The urban poor of Springfield are a diverse group, many do not speak English and truly have no idea how to properly care for their dogs, cats etc. These are not cruel people, they just don't know how to care for their pets. How are you going tO communicate what you have to offer? Forget the internet. You have to get down to basics, post in the Goodwill stores, grocery stores etc. Let them know about your program.The MSPSA was a chaotic scene but the people of the Springfield area trusted them without reservation.

  2. You couldn't be more right. There are all kinds of people who love animals and making sure we are accessible to everyone is a challenge. And making sure we reach the people and animals who need us most will mean more than sitting back and waiting for them to come to us. Thank you for your terrific suggestions!