AVMF puts mission into action

Five educational events reach out to public
Published on December 04, 2013
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Volunteers across the country devoted a day this past fall to educating their communities about the impact veterinarians have in everyday life, from disaster response to food safety to family health. 

For the first time, the American Veter­inary Medical Foundation expanded the scope of its Our Oath in Action program, creating the AVMF’s 2013 Our Oath in Action-Make A Difference Day. 

“This program is all about community education on responsible animal ownership and the veterinary communities’ engagement beyond the clinic,” said Michael Cathey, AVMF executive director.  

In 2008, the AVMF created the Our Oath in Action program during the AVMA Annual Convention in New Orleans. The goal was to put the Veterinarian’s Oath in action by organizing volunteer members of the veterinary community to rehabilitate animal shelters in an area still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. The inaugural program was so well-received that Our Oath in Action became a permanent program for the Foundation, with an annual shelter project held each subsequent year in conjunction with the AVMA Annual Convention.

This year, as part of the expanded Our Oath in Action program, five communities in Alabama, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas hosted free events open to the public, each putting its unique spin on community involvement. Most, if not all, had giveaways as well as information about keeping pets safe during natural disasters, AVMA/American Animal Hospital Association preventive care guidelines, and opportunities to join the AVMF in its mission to help veterinarians help animals. In all, the Foundation spent about $250,000 supporting these events. 


In College Station, the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation and students from the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences put on an event that was sure to draw a crowd in this pigskin-loving state. They were stationed in the Aggie Fan Zone at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field for three hours prior to kickoff against Vanderbilt on Oct. 26. The event’s primary theme was educating animal owners about foods and chemicals that could be toxic, particularly during the holiday season.
AVMF board member Dr. Garry Adams, team leader Dr. Pam Cockrum, and about 10 other volunteers handed out 500 blue AVMF tote bags that contained a Pet First Aid bandana, a “Household Hazards” brochure, an AVMF Animal Ambassador information card, a “Saving the Whole Family” booklet, and an AVMF “Save Our Pets” emergency window cling. They also gave away about 100 Hill’s Pet Nutrition dog food bowls and 100 Hill’s cat food bowls, Dr. Cockrum said.  


Meanwhile, volunteers in Lincoln, Neb., hosted the first Nebraska Animal Fair on Oct. 26 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln East Campus Union. Numerous booths housed information on bite prevention, pet first aid, nutrition, and obesity.  

Dr. Bruce Broderson, chair of the Nebraska VMA’s Public Relations Committee, said UNL had a strong presence, with booths representing the university’s veterinary and preveterinary programs as well as small animal and large animal veterinary student clubs. Also on hand were Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Capital Humane Society, Lincoln Animal Control, and Lincoln-based therapy dog program Domesti-Pups.  


One of the highlights of the Nebraska Animal Fair was a pet costume contest. (Courtesy of Dr. Bruce Broderson)


Local practitioners came to give short lectures on the importance of dental care and annual wellness examinations.

“We were fortunate to have a lot of people involved with this,” Dr. Broderson said, noting it was the first time so many Nebraska veterinary professionals got together for this kind of event.

The Lincoln Police Department’s K-9 unit gave drug-sniffing demonstrations, while a local resident whose dog participates in agility competitions demonstrated common training exercises.

Further, the fair had face painting, a costume contest for kids and pets, and an Operation-like game on a board with a simulated dog and cat.

“We got a lot of use out of that,” Dr. Broderson said.

Merck Animal Health donated 100 microchips for identifying pets, and about 65 dogs were implanted.

Dr. Broderson estimates up to 150 attended the event.  


Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine hosted a four-hour “tailgate pet care extravaganza” Oct. 12 to coincide with the College of Agriculture’s Fall Roundup and Taste of Alabama Agriculture, held during homecoming festivities at Ag Heritage Park. 

Dr. Jan Strother, an AVMF board member, attended the Our Oath in Action event Oct. 12 at Auburn. (Courtesy of AVMF)
The Alabama VMA’s Companion Animal Mobile Equipment Trailer for disaster response was on hand, and a bomb-sniffing dog and its trainer gave a demonstration.

AVMF board member Dr. Jan K. Strother said, “It was a great opportunity for veterinarians and veterinary students from both Auburn and Tuskegee to mingle with the crowd and share outreach information about disaster preparedness for people and animals. Many of the crowd had pets with them and were excited and appreciative of the AVMF disaster-preparedness booklets, along with free bowls and leashes.” 

A little farther south, Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine teamed up with the AVMF to educate members of the community not only about getting their pets healthy before winter but also what to do in a disaster situation. The veterinary school’s Small Animal Hospital housed the Disaster Preparedness and Small Animal Health Fair on the morning of Nov. 9.

Tuskegee University veterinary students perform a wellness check during the Small Animal Health Fair. (Courtesy of Tuskegee University SVM)

Dr. Strother said the event was a huge success, with more than 500 pets being vaccinated and checked for heartworms and intestinal parasites. Owners of those pets received information about preventable diseases.   

“Situated in a low-income, rural area of Alabama, many people told me that this was the only way they get to have an opportunity to protect their pets. Obviously, we are very appreciative of everyone’s partnership and participation to make this AVMF event possible,” she said. 


Oklahoma put on two events as part of its Our Oath in Action project. 

The first took place in Noble at the WildCare Foundation, which has an animal hospital and health care facility for all wild animals native to Oklahoma. On Oct. 26, veterinarians and other community members were joined by students from Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine, the preveterinary club, and students from Murray State College’s registered veterinary technician program to build enclosures for small mammals and birds injured in May in the Moore tornadoes. The foundation had received over 800 injured animals.

In addition, volunteers Drs. Becca White and Joe Carter repaired the broken wing of a golden eagle that had been injured the previous day. 

Despite poor weather, the veterinary volunteers worked hard to complete their projects, Dr. Carter said.

Veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and veterinary students build enclosures for animals and birds at the WildCare Foundation in Noble, Okla. (Courtesy of Dr. Joe Carter)
The second event was the filming of a documentary, funded by the AVMF, about the tornadoes’ impact on animals and the veterinarians who provided medical care for those injured. A few local veterinarians were interviewed, including Dr. Scott Mason, a member of the AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Team program, and Dr. Michael Wiley of the Equi-Center Veterinary Hospital in Norman, Okla., who treated many horses that were severely injured in the tornadoes (see JAVMA, July 15, 2013).

The documentary will include background information about Oklahoma’s history of severe weather and the benefits of having disaster-preparedness plans in place. Also planned for the documentary is information on the direct impact these storms have on large, small, and exotic animals, such as problems with pet identification, possible spread of infection, and long-term care and adoption of abandoned animals.

“We will show the countless hours that were volunteered to care for the animals and to reunite them with their owners. Plus, there will be some heartfelt stories from animal owners,” said Cheri Kowal, program manager for the AVMF.

The Foundation anticipates a sneak preview of the film at the Oklahoma VMA conference at the end of January 2014. The public premiere will be held in early 2014 at a location to be determined. The public showing will be accompanied by a program and information on disaster preparedness for animal owners, Kowal said.

Overall, Dr. Strother said the AVMF and Our Oath in Action teams thought that this first year’s effort were a great success, so much so that all the participants are already planning for their events in 2014. She added that the AVMF plans on extending the events to additional locations next year.

Anyone interested in hosting a 2014 AVMF Our Oath in Action event

 can contact Cheri Kowal at ckowalatavma [dot] org or call 847-285-6691 

for more information. Proposals will be taken until Dec. 31, 2013.