Dr. Richard E. Coon would like to expand emergency animal care and student aid programs through the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.
"The main focus of the Foundation is to provide projects that benefit animals," the AVMF board member and former AVMA Executive Board member said. "This is a benefit to not only the veterinary population but it's a benefit to anybody who is interested in animal welfare, animal care, animal issues, animal problems, and so forth. The more contributions we get, the more we're able to accomplish."
However, Michael W. Cathey, director of the AVMF, said he thinks people are being cautious about expenses because of the current recession, and it is difficult to grow a donor base in such a climate.
Veterinarians donated a third less money to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation in 2008 than in the previous year. The AVMF received about $107,000 from veterinarians in 2008, down from $160,000 in 2007.
An increase in the average donation size helped compensate for a decrease in the total number of donations—about 38 percent, from 1,725 to 1062 gifts.
With donations from corporations, other organizations, pet owners, and other individuals, the AVMF had a 2007 budget of $1.2 million, which Cathey said was nearly the same as the 2008 budget.
It's still unclear what impact the change in veterinarians' donations will have, Cathey said. The Foundation is currently spending about the same amount on administrative costs as on programs, and more income would have allowed the Foundation to spend a larger percentage of funding on new and existing programs.
Cathey said needs for AVMF programs in disaster relief, student aid, and animal health studies will not disappear during a recession.
Dr. Coon said he assumes there is a connection between daily reports of economic problems such as foreclosures and the number of people who contribute to the AVMF.
"There's certainly no question that the Foundation needs to continue to advertise and draw in both the veterinary and the nonveterinary population," Dr. Coon said. "But if there's a drop in numbers of contributions, I would think that would be fairly common to charitable organizations this year."
The board member said the increased funding could help expand relief for the high cost of veterinary education, train local emergency responders on the care of animals affected by events such as fires and traffic collisions, and work more with states on plans for animal care during natural disasters. He said the Foundation is designed to develop projects to care for animals, and it provides a way for veterinarians to extend their relationship with the profession.
Dr. René A. Carlson of Chetek, Wis., is among those who continue donating.
"The Foundation is what veterinarians are all about—the emotional well-being of people and animals and taking care of them," Dr. Carlson said.
The former AVMF and AVMA board member said she donates thrice annually, and she helps clients make donations after the deaths of pets to the Pet Memorials program.
"For them to understand you've given a donation in the pet's name, it makes owners feel good. It binds them to your clinic and they're more likely to come back. It also gives the AVMF a name for the public that we can further educate them on," Dr. Carlson said.
"It's a way for the public to learn the animal hasn't died in vain," she said.
Dr. Carlson formerly sat on the AVMF board's grant committee, through which she reviewed grant applications from veterinarians affected by disasters.
"It was amazing going through the reports and injuries they saw and to defray the costs of that," she said. "I thought it was a great cause."
Dr. Carlson said she would like to see the AVMF do more shelter rehabilitation projects such as those performed last year in conjunction with the AVMA Annual Convention in New Orleans. But she expressed disappointment with what she saw as a lack of support by veterinarians.
"The AVMF is so close to reaching a tipping point to where, if you can get a certain amount of recognition and funding, you can do great things," Dr. Carlson said. "It's already doing good things; it has potential to do great things in bigger numbers, especially if we can make the public more aware."
For more information, visit www.avmf.org; call (800) 248-2862, Ext. 6689; or send checks to AVMF, Dept. 20-1122, P.O. Box 5940, Carol Stream, IL 60197.