Building bridges in Michigan

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The Michigan VMA hopes to improve relations between private practitioners and animal welfare organizations in the state.

Dr. Anderson and canine patient
Dr. Cathy Anderson with a patient at the Jackson County, Mich., animal shelter where she is the staff veterinarian. (Courtesy of Dr. Cathy Anderson)

Dr. Cathy Anderson, a Michigan veterinarian with experience in private practice and shelter medicine, and Karlene Belyea, Michigan VMA chief executive officer, are starting with a presentation about building bridges.

“We all have the same goal, which is the well-being of animals, but we’re at cross-purposes,” Dr. Anderson said. “I just felt like somebody needs to start talking about bringing these groups together and trying to forge a relationship.”

Dr. Anderson did pro bono work for animal shelters and rescue groups while in private practice and co-founded a rescue group. She still works in private practice one day a week, but her primary positions are as the staff veterinarian at the Jackson County shelter and as an instructor for a veterinary technology program. Her rescue group and the county shelter encourage adopters to form relationships with private practitioners.

The weak economy in Michigan has been worsening tensions between private practitioners and animal welfare organizations that provide veterinary services, Dr. Anderson said.

The Jackson County shelter would like to offer low-price spay-and-neuter operations for pets belonging to low-income clients, but the plan is to move very slowly to avoid antagonizing private practitioners. Many spay-and-neuter clinics do not check clients’ income, but Dr. Anderson would prefer to do so.

Belyea, who is also president of the American Society of Veterinary Medical Association Executives, has received calls from private practitioners in the state who fear losing business to animal welfare organizations that provide veterinary services. She said the MVMA is seeking to act as a third party to help improve relations.

In Grand Rapids, Dr. Anderson and Belyea gave their presentation on building bridges to an audience of veterinarians and shelter representatives. The two have talked with veterinary students and the CATalyst Council, and they plan to give their presentation again at upcoming animal welfare and veterinary conferences.