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Friday, April 19, 2024

Group of vet med students rescue dog from euthanasia

In the midst of thousands of stray animals abandoned or born without a home, rescuing a pet seems to be the right thing to do. But, is it still worth it if that animal comes with a price tag of nearly $5,000? Some graduates of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (UCDSVM) say yes.

With the intent of neutering, the City of Sacramento Animal Shelter sent Bo, a German Shepherd stray dog, to the UCDSVM. After performing the procedure, a group of graduate students in the surgical group noticed Bo having trouble with his hips.

Elizabeth Hoffman, first-year veterinary medicine graduate student, said that after radiographs and an orthopedic evaluation, Bo was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia, a genetic disease common in German Shepherds.

“[Without surgery,] he eventually would not be able to walk and also the muscles in the area would start to atrophy,” Hoffman said.

The total hip replacement, similar to the procedure on humans, will replace the top of Bo’s femur with a prosthetic one.

“If he gets the surgery, he will probably live a normal life. He won’t get arthritic hind legs and won’t have any pain,” Hoffman said.

Due to lack of funds for the expensive total hip replacement surgery, the shelter planned to euthanize Bo. Stacy Hall, a third-year veterinary medicine graduate student and member of Bo’s surgical team, adopted him the next day. In light of Hall’s familial responsibilities, Hoffman has adopted Bo from Hall.

According to Hoffman, many vet students have supported Bo’s surgery. On May 11, students held a fundraiser at the Davis Graduate Restaurant and Sports Bar, raising $3,000 of the $4,500 for the surgery that will take place at the UCDSVM.

The City of Sacramento Animal Shelter is a kill facility, meaning that if the shelter deems an animal “unadoptable” due to medical or behavioral issues, it is euthanized. In March, the shelter euthanatized 339 dogs and 191 cats, while there were only 98 total adoptions.

“I understand [kill shelters] don’t have the money to take care of all these animals and they have to spread their resources out. It’s a financial issue,” Hoffman said.

No-kill shelters, such as the Yolo County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (YCSPCA), only euthanize when the animals are in poor health or dangerously aggressive. The downside is, according to Hoffman, that no-kill shelters are much more selective with what animals they admit.

“Eliminating kill shelters all together would be ideal. I hate the idea that animals have to be put down,” Hoffman said in an e-mail interview.

Hoffman recommends that those interested in helping strays and animal overpopulation to volunteer at local shelters and to make sure their pets are spayed or neutered.

“The best option is to control the population in the first place,” Hoffman said.

According to the YCSPCA, there are also many health benefits to spay/neuter surgery by removing reproductive organs that might develop cancer later in life.

“Altered dogs and cats are more relaxed pets, because they are not driven to mate, and they are less inclined to defend territory,” states the YCSPCA web site.

For those concerned with animal welfare, the YCSPCA offers volunteer opportunities for anything from fostering an animal, animal assisted therapy and humane educators.

Hoffman also said students can spread the word to family and friends about adopting from a well-known breeder.

“If you’re getting purebreds, make sure you’re getting [pets] from a respected breeder to make sure they don’t have genetic issues,” Hoffman said.

To donate to Bo’s total hip replacement surgery, visit sites.google.com/site/bohipfund/.

GRACE BENEFIELD can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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