Imagine the orchestration required when a single patient undergoes surgery. Multiply by 300 animals, add 400 volunteers, and you've got Spay Day 2004 at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
The February 22 event, part of a national Spay Day effort was described by Bennie I. Osburn, dean, as "the single largest spay-neutering undertaking in one location."
The school's participation resulted from a new partnership with the Sacramento Area Animal Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing companion animal overpopulation. The school joined other local veterinary professionals to perform more than 1,000 low-cost procedures in a tri-county region.
The ambitious goal to spay and neuter up to 300 animals at the school was made possible by the availability of the Veterinary Medicine Laboratory Facility, usually employed to teach veterinary students anesthesia and surgery skills. For Spay Day, the facility, with its 28-table surgical suite, served a large-scale clinical purpose. The surgical team began promptly at 6:30 a.m. with animals admitted the previous evening. Clients brought in animals by appointment throughout the day; the last dogs and cats were sent home with caregivers, along with home care instructions, after night fell.
Coordinators spent countless hours to organize the event and recruit clinicians, technicians, students and other volunteers for each task. "We knew exactly what each student volunteer and staff member was qualified for because we've been teaching them all along," said Jan Ilkiw, associate dean for Academic Programs and the school's Spay Day coordinator.
Students served in the important role of pet guardians. They handled and cared for animals assigned to them throughout the process and met with clients. Faculty and resident clinicians conducted health exams, pre-medication, anesthesia and surgery. Experienced students assisted with anesthesia, surgical preparation, lab testing and other selected procedures.
Also among the volunteers were staff members from the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, Veterinary Medicine Extension and other units; residents in dermatology, internal medicine and other specialties; office staff and data managers; and non-clinical faculty. One couple, both veterinary technicians, volunteered their expertise for the day—and had two of their own kittens spayed.
Sacramento Area Animal Coalition officials estimate that the spay-neuter procedures on 1000 pets altered regionally on Spay Day would prevent the births of 10,000 unwanted animals—in just one year. The cats and dogs also received diagnostic tests, vaccinations and microchip identification. Ilkiw explained, "Spay Day provides a major community service. We gladly volunteer resources and expertise for this extraordinary event to benefit animals now and help in the long-term fight against pet overpopulation."