December 8, 2008

Purdue veterinary school starts new program to aid pets in shelters

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A new program in Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine will focus on helping animals in shelters.

At a time when animal shelters nationwide are experiencing a growing need for veterinarians trained in treating shelter pets, Purdue’s effort is particularly important, said Annette Litster, who’s heading the program.

“We want to revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals by educating future leaders in shelter medicine, conducting research that will help the welfare of shelter animals and spreading the word about the information we’ve produced through our research,” said Litster, an assistant professor in the veterinary clinical services department and a feline medicine specialist.

Willie Reed, dean of the school, said veterinary professionals skilled in addressing the medical needs of homeless pets in animal shelters are in great demand.

“Because of our commitment to provide leadership through bold initiatives in veterinary education and animal health care, it is imperative that we establish this program to provide a holistic approach to solving the challenges associated with these animals,” Reed said. “I am especially pleased that this program includes an emphasis on addressing animal behavior issues, which often are treatable, yet sometimes stand in the way of the successful adoption of homeless pets.”

Maddie’s® Fund, a California-based pet rescue foundation, is funding the effort with a $ 1.2 million grant. The foundation aims to develop shelter medicine programs to improve the quality of life and adoption rates in shelters, reduce shelter deaths and save the lives of dogs and cats that can be rehabilitated.

“Most veterinarians in companion animal practice are concerned primarily with treatment and prevention of disease of privately owned pets,” said veterinarian Laurie Peek, veterinary program director of Maddie’s Fund. “Very few have been specifically trained to provide preventive health and behavioral care for shelter dogs and cats, rehabilitate sick or poorly behaved shelter pets, or to take a leadership role in preventing pet homelessness. By partnering with Purdue, we will develop the next generation of leaders in the field of shelter medicine.”

Peek said the new program will add a wealth of knowledge to the field of shelter medicine.

The Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program includes a lecture course for sophomores and juniors in the veterinary medicine program, an externship and research opportunities. It also funds two doctoral and six postdoctoral positions in shelter medicine and two animal behavior residents.

Students in the program will do externships at two collaborating shelters, PAWS in Chicago and the Humane Society of Indianapolis, an adoption shelter. The program will begin in January.

“We are thrilled about the new program,” said John Aleshire, executive director at the Humane Society of Indianapolis. “It’s in our backyard, and Purdue has such a name in veterinary medicine. It’s going to be an asset to the state. Shelters like the Humane Society will benefit because there will be more people keeping our animals healthy.”

Rochelle Michalek, executive director of PAWS Chicago, said her organization was proud to partner with Purdue in shaping, influencing and setting a new standard for the future of veterinary treatment in animal shelters.

About Maddie's Fund

Maddie’s Fund,® The Pet Rescue Foundation, ( is a family foundation funded by Workday and PeopleSoft Founder Dave Duffield and his wife, Cheryl. Maddie's Fund is helping to create a no-kill nation where all healthy and treatable shelter dogs and cats are guaranteed a loving home.

To achieve this goal, Maddie's Fund is investing its resources in building community collaborations where animal welfare organizations come together to develop successful models of lifesaving; in veterinary colleges to help shelter medicine become part of the veterinary curriculum; in private practice veterinarians to encourage greater participation in the animal welfare cause; and in the implementation of national strategies to collect and report shelter statistics. Maddie’s Fund is named after the family’s beloved Miniature Schnauzer who passed away in 1997.

Writer: Soumitro Sen, 765-494-7608,

Sources: Annette Litster, 765-418-3186,

Willie Reed, 765-494-7608,

Laurie Peek, 608-827-6907

John Aleshire, 317-872-5650, ext. 104,

Rochelle Michalek, 773-475-9420,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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