Colorado State University veterinary students reached out to pets in need through Project Homeless Connect Fort Collins in April providing free physical exams, vaccinations, client education, and supplies to 51 dogs and cats. The animals belong to members of the homeless community who often don’t have the means to provide basic veterinary care to their beloved companions.
“We have pets in our community that are so loved and taken care of to the best of their owner’s ability; but, the reality is, these animals are living on the streets. They demand additional care that their owners are not able to provide,” said Dr. Rebecca Ruch-Gallie, Community Practice Clinical and Shelter Medicine Coordinator at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “It’s a good feeling to get those animals the care that they need.”
Project Homeless Connect, held this year on Friday, April 12, is a one-day event providing a variety of services and assistance to homeless community members, including re-housing information, medical screenings, employment assistance, bike repair, and veterinary care for their pets. It is a one-stop shop designed to mitigate the struggles of homelessness and provide for a more promising future.
“Outreach is a huge component to a successful community practice, and this was an incredible learning opportunity for our veterinary students,” Dr. Ruch-Gallie said. “Working alongside our students at events like this reminds me that our profession is going to be in awesome hands!”
Dr. Ruch-Gallie organized the student involvement, while Dr. Lori Kogan, Director of DVM Student Affairs, worked with Project Homeless Connect coordinators. Among the 22 student volunteers were four DVM seniors, three DVM juniors, 13 first- and second-year DVM students, and two Pets Forever volunteers. Dr. Melinda Frye, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, volunteered with Dr. Ruch-Gallie to support the veterinary students during the event.
“Our students have such big hearts,” Dr. Ruch-Gallie said. “Between their heavy class loads and hospital rotations, they are constantly seeking more ways to spend their limited free time reaching out and practicing their skills outside of the classroom.”
The CSU veterinary team joined more than 500 community volunteers and 40 service and government agencies in serving an estimated 500 clients. Since its inaugural year in 2010, Project Homeless Connect has more than doubled the number of Fort Collins community members served.
Project Homeless Connect Fort Collins began as a partnership between Homeward 2020, Fort Collins’ 10-year plan to end homelessness, and the CSU office of Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement (SLiCE). Vaccinations, deworming, and food supplies were provided by Boehringer-Ingleheim and the Larimer Humane Society.