Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

March 21, 2013

Vet truck saves lives

Purdue offers student vets real-world practice.

Tipton — Pet owners might balk at having their pooch undergo surgery in the back of a truck, but that’s probably because they’ve never seen Purdue University’s mobile veterinary clinic.

A self-contained, diesel-powered surgical unit, the truck is both a training ground for aspiring vets and a free service for local shelters inundated with abandoned pets.

Cages for animals awaiting surgery, a steel surgical table for prepping the animals, three surgical tables with racks for instruments and monitors make it cozy for the three students, one vet technician and their leader, Dr. Nancy Ferguson, DVM.

The day’s mission: drive from West Lafayette to Kokomo, park behind the Kokomo Humane Society shelter and spay or neuter more than two dozen dogs and cats, all of which will be put up for adoption at a reduced cost.

“This is basically saving lives,” humane society director Jean McGroarty said. “It’s hard to even talk about how much this means to us.”

The shelter passes along the cost savings to adoptive pet owners, and, as a result, more animals are being adopted and the shelter’s euthanasia rate has fallen, McGroarty said.

Pet-loving race car drivers Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart, along with the PetSmart Foundation and other charities, support the Purdue clinic, which makes day trips to shelters around the north central part of the state between February and October.

Last Thursday, it was Kokomo’s turn.

Students Cassandra Waldman, Lauren Kimura and Jessica Petty were rotating among the surgical tables under Ferguson’s watchful eye.

Registered veterinary technician Carri McCoy was getting each animal ready by administering anesthetic, waiting until the animal was knocked out cold (tongue lolling noticeably from the mouth), inserting a breathing tube into the esophagus and shaving and disinfecting the area to be incised.

Once the animal was prepped, the clock started for the student performing that animal’s surgery.

Ferguson, with all of her lengthy experience, can do a spay operation in eight minutes flat.

Waldman, who is just a couple of months away from joining the workforce as a new vet, was running about 23 minutes for her spays Thursday.

It takes dedication to get to this point for all of the students, who are each signed up for a course which includes a three-week long practical lab section. Two of those weeks are spent on the mobile truck, performing spays and neuters and routine medical services for the animals at the shelters.

“A lot of people think the hardest thing for the students is all of the course work, but the hardest thing will be when they graduate and go into the field as new veterinarians,” Ferguson said. “There’s still so much they have to learn.”

Originally from Texas, Waldman had planned to go into the field of forensic science, made famous by multiple CSI television series. Once in school, she decide to move to veterinary science, beating the tall odds against getting into a veterinary program.

Slicing through three layers of tissue, finding and removing the uterus and the ovaries, and then suturing each of the tissue layers back together isn’t for the squeamish, but all of the students made it look easy.

“What we do, we hope, will help all of the practicing vets out there,” Ferguson said. “This program will give them tremendously skilled vets. And this surgery is a one-time event for each animal. They will require a lifetime of veterinary care.”

Surprisingly, perhaps, six of the felines scheduled for surgery Thursday were feral, trapped by residents and dropped off at the shelter.

Ferguson said the new thinking on feral cat populations is a trap-fix-release policy helps reduce the overall feral population, as opposed to simply trapping and euthanizing cats.

“You can only have so many feral cats in one geographic area,” she said. “If you get rid of them, that just encourages them to make more cats.”

It’s a long day for everyone concerned. They leave the school at 6:45 a.m., eat lunch (provided by the always grateful shelters), and work until late afternoon. The cats are usually done in the morning, as they are quieter and easier to handle.

Each domesticated animal gets a small blue tattoo on its belly to show it has been fixed. Feral cats get a notch in the left ear.

And they administer pain medication, which lasts for up to three days, to each animal.

The old thinking was that animals should be sent home with nothing, so they would be sore and less likely to move around and possibly tear their stitches.

Ferguson said there’s not much to back that theory, and said she’s not sure why so many vets operated that way.

“The old thought was that it doesn’t really hurt; it’s a dog, it’s a cat,” she said. “Well, we know that it does hurt.”

The mobile clinic isn’t a public service — it only performs services for animal shelters.

But with the spring here, it’s time for pet owners to think about having their pets spayed or neutered.

“Fix by six (months) and spay by five,” is the old refrain, and it’s still considered a good benchmark. Beyond keeping down the unwanted pet population, there are significant health benefits, especially for females, for an animal that is fixed before it enters puberty, Ferguson explained.

“This has really improved staff morale,” McGroarty said of the Purdue clinic, which is now in its second year of operation. “We’re more positive in thinking about outcomes for each animal, and we think that every animal is going to have an appropriate outcome.”

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • NES plans kindergarten round-up Northwestern Elementary School is planning its kindergarten round-up for 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday. To qualify for kindergarten enrollment, a child must be 5 years old on or before Aug. 1. Parents must bring their child's birth certificate, immunizat

    April 19, 2014

  • NSC establishes number of transfers Northwestern School Corp. has decided how many transfer students the district can accept next school year in compliance with the state's relatively new open enrollment law. This is the first time Northwestern has announced vacancies at each grade lev

    April 19, 2014

  • Kokomo man heading to 'Hoosier Millionaire' finale Rick Rhodes is still having a hard time believing his good fortune. On Thursday, the 53-year-old Kokomo man walked away with $13,500 after beating out five other contestants on the “Hoosier Millionaire” live road show in Fort Wayne. “I’m still in sho

    April 18, 2014

  • Dual Credit classes KACC 02 Dual credits give high school students head start on college More area students are enrolling in dual credit classes as a way to get an early start on their college degrees and prepare for the rigor of higher education while still in high school. In the past five years, the number of college credits earned by

    April 18, 2014 3 Photos

  • Email, Internet knocked out at Miami Co. Courthouse PERU -- Basic government services were put on hold for the second time in nearly two months in Miami County after a massive server failure once again knocked out Internet and email access in most departments and offices. The crash hit early last week

    April 18, 2014

  • Early voting underway in Miami Co. PERU -- Miami County officials are reminding residents that early voting is now open for the primary election. Early voting started April 8 and will end May 5, one day before Election Day. Early voting is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every weekday at t

    April 18, 2014

  • Jackson Street Commons veterans home grand opening set for May 22 Jackson Street Commons, a home for veterans near downtown Kokomo, will host a grand opening May 22. The new $3.6 million facility, located at 322 E. Jackson St., provides permanent housing to 27 previously homeless veterans, said Judy Dennis, executi

    April 18, 2014

  • YMCA nearing design phase completion Development and design of the new 73,000 square foot YMCA should be completed in the next 30 days, YMCA of Kokomo Executive Director David Dubois told the Kokomo Common Council Monday. Dubois said he hopes to begin construction on the new facility by

    April 18, 2014

  • NHS, PJHS named four-star schools Northwestern High School and Peru Jr. High School have found their place among the top schools in the state, with the Indiana Department of Education recognizing them as four-star schools Tuesday. A total of 311 elementary, middle and high schools we

    April 18, 2014

  • NWS-PT041614 Flora Doc1.jpg [Duplicate] The doctor is still in after health group's departure FLORA -- The safe at a downtown bank building, once used for protecting cash and valuables, is now stocked with medical supplies. The former bank office on East Main Street became Flora Family Medicine last month after it was made possible for one lo

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries