The Portland, Ore., area will be the launch site for the CATalyst Council’s new program to increase veterinary care for cats after adoption from shelters. The CATalyst Connection program aims to establish a network between the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) and local veterinarians to better ensure the continuation of care. This initiative comes after survey results from a study conducted by the CATalyst Council released in late 2012 revealed a wide gap between the perspectives of veterinarians and animal shelters. CATalyst set out to identify ways to build greater collaboration between the groups and determine how that relationship affects the adoption and subsequent care of shelter cats.
CATalyst Connection seems to fit the bill. The new program will directly transfer health records from the OHS to a veterinarian of the adopter’s choice. The OHS went paperless last year, converting all its health records to digital files. “We started e-mailing the owners all the documents associated with the adoption, including the medical and behavioral notes and records for the pet,” OHS Communications Director Barbara Baugnon says. “With this new program we would e-mail the health records to the veterinarians as well as the owners.”
Veterinarians will play an essential role in the program by initiating contact with the adopter to schedule a complimentary health check and exam and keeping OHS informed. Baugnon says providing a free initial exam is something Portland-area veterinarians were already doing to support local shelters and gain new clients. CATalyst Connection asks veterinarians to go a step further and confirm to the OHS that the relationship with the pet owner has been established and the animal has been examined so the organization can track how many adopted pets receive the post-adoption exams. Baugnon says reporting to the OHS is voluntary, but with the support of the Portland Veterinary Medical Association—which is also interested in the data—she expects a high level of participation from a veterinary community that is already recognized for supporting adopted pets.
“When it comes to saving lives of shelter pets, no city in the nation surpasses Portland,” says Jane Brunt, DVM, executive director of the CATalyst Council. “In 2012, the save rate for OHS was 98 percent, meaning that 98 percent of the animals admitted to the OHS shelter were adopted, reunited with their owner or transferred to another humane organization dedicated to finding homes for pets.” Although OHS does not label itself a no-kill shelter, it places no time limits or space limits on how long an animal can remain up for adoption. OHS prides itself on the utilization of foster care volunteers and volunteer trainers; its Second Chance program that aids regional shelters; and a medical care partnership with the Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine to maintain high adoption rates.
“This stellar record is a reflection of the Oregon Humane Society’s commitment to saving pets,” Brunt continues. “Our hope is to be able to gather the data that will allow us to make the case to other communities that when shelters and veterinarians work together, everyone wins.”
Baugnon says with the existing system at OHS, implementation of the program is as simple as adding a veterinarian’s name to an e-mail list.