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Overseers' gift advances capabilities in Animal Shelter Medicine

A $150,000 gift from Overseers, V. Duncan and Diana L. Johnson will benefit homeless cats, dogs, and other animals by supporting veterinary training in shelter medicine at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Almost all of the animals that have become members of the Johnson family over the years had been previously abandoned. "We cannot think of a better way to pay tribute to our own companion animals, past and present, than to support such a program," say the Johnsons, of Providence, R.I.

The program in shelter medicine is a new initiative for the school. The Johnsons' gift will help plan and put in place the program's curriculum. Partners will include some of the most respected animal-welfare organizations: the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Rescue League of Boston, and the Massachusetts Animal Coalition. "Underserved animals, their owners, and veterinary students all will benefit from the generosity of Diana and Duncan Johnson, whose gift and whose advocacy with other potential donors have made the launch of this important program possible," says Deborah Kochevar, D.V.M., Ph.D., dean of the Cummings School.

The support for the training is welcomed by professionals who work to place strays and to reduce the number of animals euthanized for lack of a home. "Hundreds of smaller shelters and rescue organizations in Massachusetts rely on help from their local veterinarian," said Dr. Emily McCobb, V00, VG03, VR06, anesthesiologist at Tufts' Veterinary Emergency Treatment & Specialties (VETS) facility in Walpole and a director of the Massachusetts Animal Coalition. "Most veterinarians donate a significant portion of their time helping homeless animals in some way, either through participating in low-cost spay/neuter programs or feral cat spaying/neutering, or in donating services to help injured stray animals. It is vital that all of our veterinary students receive exposure to shelter medicine and shelter issues."

Dr. Martha Smith, V97, director of veterinary medical services for the Animal Rescue League of Boston, says, "Shelter veterinarians increasingly are playing a role in the forensic investigation of animal cruelty. Society expects more from animal shelters, both in standard of care and in improved outcomes for the animals helped. To properly train veterinarians in the complexities of animal sheltering, a dedicated course of study is essential."