Convention-goers spruce up local animal shelters

American Veterinary Medical Foundation continues voluntourism project
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Horses, cats, dogs, and other animals in three Seattle-area shelters are the beneficiaries of hundreds of hours of volunteer labor by convention attendees.

On July 10 and 11, dozens of attendees participated in the American Veterinary Medical Foundation's second Our Oath in Action voluntourism project. The project combines volunteerism and tourism to put the veterinarian's oath into action while offering convention-goers a closer look at the community.

AVMF volunteerism
Kristen Twedt, a veterinary student at Michigan State University, and Dr. Shelia Taylor of Springfield, Mo., dig out wood chips that accumulated along the edge of a dog exercise area at the Seattle Animal Shelter.
AVMF volunteerism
Dr. Kristyn Richardson of Lyons, Colo., helps paint the barn at Hope for Horses.
AVMF volunteerism
Two kittens greet visitors at the intake area of the Seattle Animal Shelter.
AVMF volunteerism
A horse rests its head on a fence at the Hope for Horses shelter in Snohomish County.

The AVMF organized this year's project with sponsorship from Bayer Animal Health and Hill's Pet Nutrition. The three shelters were the Seattle Animal Shelter, Hope for Horses in Snohomish County, and King County Animal Care.

The Seattle Animal Shelter is the city's shelter—providing animal control, pet licensing, and low-cost spay/neuter services as well as animal care.

"When it comes to animals in the city of Seattle, you name it, we do it," said Kara Main-Hester, the shelter's manager of volunteer programs and fundraising.

The AVMF volunteers helped with various tasks at the shelter, from washing out an area for rabbits and other small companion animals to digging out the wood chips that accumulated around the edge of the dog exercise areas.

"I felt like there was no better way to get to know a city than to get down and be helpful," said Kelly Johnson, a veterinary student at North Carolina State University.

Kristen Twedt, a veterinary student at Michigan State University, also volunteered last year for the AVMF project in New Orleans.

"We really felt like we were doing so much good," Twedt said. "I couldn't imagine not doing it again."

Dr. Shelia Taylor of Springfield, Mo., didn't learn about the project in New Orleans soon enough to volunteer—so she was particularly glad to volunteer in Seattle.

"I like giving back to the community," Dr. Taylor said. "This is something with the veterinary community that feels important."

Dr. Ray Glick, an AVMF board member, said the voluntourism project is rewarding partly because the benefits to the animals are easy to see. The shelters have been glad for the help.

"I think they really appreciate what we're doing," Dr. Glick said. "There are a lot of things that just wouldn't get done."

At Hope for Horses, well outside the city limits, AVMF volunteers worked on painting the barn and sprucing up the grounds. The horses also enjoyed some extra scratching from their new friends.

Dr. Kristyn Richardson of Lyons, Colo., said she volunteered because she wanted to help the people who are helping horses and other animals.

"It's very small groups of individuals who have a very large impact on their community," Dr. Richardson said.

Jenny Edwards, executive director of Hope for Horses, said the AVMF project provided the impetus to give the shelter a facelift.

"It's not just fulfilling, it's also fun to have a lot of people work on a group project," Edwards said.

At King County Animal Care, the county's shelter, AVMF volunteers also helped work on the grounds. In addition, they assisted with preparations for a major adopt-a-thon July 11 at the shelter?a venture that brought in animals from across the state.