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Paying it forward with wildlife cases


"But that's one of those uphill battles. You have to be willing to accept wildlife to come in to treat because of the love and not because of the money," Forman says. "And if you can offset or defray some of the costs incurred, I'm happy. I've continually lost money. The rest of the practice helps subsidize my passion."

Dr. Colin Gillin of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and president of the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians agrees that there are probably few governmental agencies that would provide compensation to veterinarians who treat wildlife. He says individual donations are probably a practitioner's best hope.

"For routine wildlife that are brought in, unless someone's providing a donation, it's not going to be covered by anyone else," Gillin says.

Most rehabilitators have to be sponsored by a veterinarian, so there may be opportunities for payment there, as many rehabilitators may solicit grants and donations for their work and to cover their costs. But veterinarians caring for wildlife usually do so at their own expense, he says.

But aside from the cost of providing wildlife care, Gillin says veterinarians must also be aware that there are rules governing how much care an average practitioner can provide to injured wildlife.

"All private practitioners at some time or another treat wildlife at some level, whether they euthanize them or actually do treatments," he says. "Some veterinarians are more involved. But just because we have a veterinary degree, it doesn't cover all the knowledge that's needed for treating wildlife, particularly holding and caring for wildlife."

Some states will regulate wildlife care—maybe not in their veterinary practice acts—and only allow veterinarians to provide immediate treatment. Oregon, for example, does not allow veterinarians to provide long-term care or rehabilitation without a permit—which requires additional training and extensive testing.

"Just because you may know how to set a bone or you may know fluid therapy or you may know a lot of things for birds, mammals, whatever, the actual care and food habits, environmental care is different for wild animals," Gillin says. He suggests veterinarians who do take in wildlife learn about the nutritional needs of some of their native species, and work to avoid habituating the animal to people.

"Limit visual contact with humans. Get them to where they are feeding them, but not conditioning them to being fed by people," he says.

Dr. Florina Tseng, director of the Tufts Wildlife Clinic, says there are federal laws governing the care of migratory birds, limiting veterinarians to a 48-hour window for treatment.

But in some states, she says veterinarians who are interested in doing so can easily obtain a rehabilitation permit without taking an exam if they meet other requirements, such as providing a proper habitat.

For veterinarians who want to do more or need help with a case, Forman says there are a lot of ways to get involved in wildlife care.

"There are tremendous resources out there. Most veterinary schools gave wildlife clinics, and they welcome veterinarians to get into wildlife medicine. There are also a lot of wildlife programs," he says. "Don't ever feel like there isn't a safety net ... there's people out there who can help."

Local nonprofit wildlife centers or veterinary colleges may be able to help with a case, he says.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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