It’s not often that a bus or trailer from Mississippi State is met with warm greetings in Oxford, but such was the case when the MSU vet school mobile unit rolled into the parking lot of the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society yesterday. The university has partnered with the local shelter for a mutually beneficial program that spays and neuters shelter animals.
The program was started in 2007 by Dr. Philip Bushby for MSU students to travel to local shelters across the state to spay and neuter animals, giving the students much-needed experience and the shelters a valuable service. Since then, the program has treated over 50,000 animals, including almost 10,000 in 2014 alone. The program has two goose neck trailers, of 38 and 32 feet, that travel the central and northern part of the state 3-4 times per week with a professor and two or three students in tow. Each trip sees roughly 25 animals treated and the program is free of charge to the shelter, except for one minor stipulation.
“Every time they come they get a free lunch,” said OLHS director Jenn Petermann. “Their favorite place is Oby’s so each time they come to town, we provide that for them.”
Lunch is a small price to pay considering the average price for a spay and neutering is around $80-100 each, saving the shelter thousands each time they are visited by one of the “Bushby Busses.” The program costs around $400,000 per year to run with the funding coming from PetsMart Charities, the ASPCA and private donations.
“It’s a high-quality, high-efficiency program,” said Mississippi State assistant professor of shelter medicine Dr. Jake Shivley. “The heart of it is teaching the junior and senior students we bring with us, and it’s a huge outreach that we provide at no cost.”
While OLHS was the first shelter to join the program, there are now 20 in north and central Mississippi. Not only are students coming from Mississippi State, they now have externs from Auburn, Illinois, the United Kingdom and more. Regardless of where they come from, Shivley said the experience they get in the program is invaluable.
“Obviously students get incredible experience and they all rave about it. Our students in the program do about 80 procedures before the graduate as opposed to a lot of schools where they only do 5-10,” he said. “It’s also good PR for the school and we want to give back, and we’re eager to be seen.”
Not only do they perform spay and neuters, they offer consulting and help to the shelter in regards to a disease outbreak or a singular sick animal. They act as a point of information and a knowledge base that could otherwise cost the shelter hundreds of dollars.
The program visits 6-8 shelters each week and will be back in Oxford two weeks from yesterday. The importance of the services is not lost on Petermann.
“The partnership has been so amazing and it’s a great give and take,” she said. “They help a lot of our animals here and it’s of course a great learning experience for the students.”
Michael Quirk is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at email@example.com.