Veterinary social work summit focuses on animals, poverty

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The sixth International Veterinary Social Work Summit, which took place from October 8-10, practically, dealt with the topic “Animals and Poverty: How This Affects Human-Animal Relationship”.

The summit’s sessions also addressed the challenges related to COVID-19, telehealth, animal welfare and access to veterinary care. Many of the conversations included tips and advice for veterinarians. The event was hosted by the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Social Work.

This slide of the presentation, “Improving Access to Veterinary Care,” a session at the Sixth International Veterinary Social Work Summit, discusses various aspects of pets in poverty, including how many households live, benefits from the US Supplemental Nutrition Assistance – Department of Agriculture received program.

Tips on access to care

The “Improving Access to Veterinary Care” session looked at potential barriers to care and how they can be overcome.

Emily Gelb, director of community solutions at the Asheville Humane Society in Asheville, North Carolina, suggested identifying the barriers in a community first and then focusing on removing those barriers.

“I’m not a veterinarian, but from my point of view one of the things I’ve seen most important about veterinary clinics that work with us is that the clinics are more focused on incremental care than the gold standard,” said Gelb. “At the same time, it creates a welcoming hospital environment and a culture that doesn’t make assumptions or judgments about people and their love for their pets based on their socio-economic level.”

Yellow and Pia Cash, a community solutions assistant at the Asheville Humane Society, suggested ways a veterinary clinic can improve access to care, including the following:

  • Start a grant program.
  • Partnership with an animal shelter to run vaccination clinics.
  • Establishment of pop-up clinics in underserved districts and provision of prevention or wellness services.
  • Sale of flea and tick repellants at cost in the clinic.

Animal welfare

“Is the animal loved?” asked Dr. Zenithson Ng, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, during “Improving Animal Welfare for Pets from People in Poverty.”

Dr. Ng discussed how the Five Freedoms, originally developed to set animal welfare guidelines for farm animals, could be used to help pets living in poverty. He said an animal living with someone who is homeless, for example, could have different experiences.

“We have to realize that every case is unique. We would like to invite the owner to a discussion, ”said Dr. Ng. “Talk to them, ask them what their perspective is. What the owner sees may not be what the vet sees. “

Dr. Ng said it is important to discuss whether an animal is well hydrated, especially for pet owners who are homeless.

“Discuss where to buy cheap groceries and free grocery shipping or grocery banking options. Provide a free measuring cup and discuss access to fresh water at any time, ”he said.


Several experts came together during the panel discussion “COVID-19 – What is important?”. The conversation focused on topics and concerns that participants faced, including curbside, housing and telehealth.

Dr. Meggan Graves, a veterinarian and clinical assistant professor at UT Veterinary College, said telemedicine was pretty normal for large animal practitioners.

Although large numbers of pets live in households that face care difficulties, many of these households have internet access and could potentially benefit from more telemedicine appointments.

Dr. Michael Blackwell, Director of the Animal Health Equality Program at UT, spoke about how telemedicine could solve some problems.

“I think it is important – even after COVID – if we want to bridge the gap, our profession has to become familiar with telemedicine,” said Dr. Blackwell. “There are situations that are personally challenged, but I think we need to push for greater use of technology. We need to be an encouraging voice committed to telehealth. “

The current guidelines vary by state. AVMA has a resource page on telemedicine.