Q and A with an animal shelter veterinarian

The following is an interview with Dr. Lisa Thompson, staff veterinarian at the Everett Animal Shelter.

Tell us about yourself. How did you get to be an animal shelter veterinarian?

Let’s see. I started out wanting to be a paleontologist, but decided it was too boring (no offense meant to paleontologists, just not my cup of tea). I had an epiphany, decided to work on living animals, and went into veterinary medicine. I was in private practice for 18 years, and then joined a clinical practice.

I was on the advisory board for the Everett Animal Shelter and helped design the veterinary area for the new shelter prior to the move to the current site. I suddenly realized I had designed it for me in mind, including the features I would like, so I applied for the position.

What are the biggest differences between private practice and what you see at the animal shelter?

You have to make a paradigm shift. You are dealing with limited funds and equipment, where in a clinical practice you tend to have the equipment you need. I have to say that ARF (the Animal Rescue Foundation of Everett, a nonprofit that does fundraising for the shelter’s vet clinic), is a huge help. ARF pays for things like bloodwork for older cats so we know before a cat is adopted out whether they have any issues that will need to be addressed. That way, the new family knows if the animal they are adopting will need any special care when they adopt the animal. ARF also raises funds for equipment for the veterinary area.

The other big difference is that we have to deal with “herd health”. Most households only have one animal, or at most a few, compared to the animal shelter, where we have many animals. Some things we do at the animal shelter to deal with this are:

  • Vaccinate animals that come in within the first 24 hrs. We definitely see less disease in the shelter population when we do this.
  • Establish isolation areas to help cut down on the transmission of disease
  • Maintain a separate ventilation system for our dog kennel areas to keep airborne viruses from spreading

What is the hardest thing you have to do?

The hardest thing is seeing the cruelty and neglect cases. It is tragic to see the condition of the animals.

What is the most fun?

For me, the fun stuff is the variety of things we get to see that you don’t usually get to see in private practice, like odd hernias or disappearing testicles. (Note: We could do a whole blog on stories from Dr. Thompson – and maybe we will in a future blog!)

What is the one thing you most wish you had?

The one thing I wish we had is an x-ray machine. If an animal needs an x-ray we have to transport them to another facility to take the x-ray and then transport them back to the shelter. This takes time and is harder on the animal than it would be if we had the proper equipment at the shelter. ARF is currently raising funds to purchase an x-ray machine: they cost about $50,000.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?

I enjoy being outside working in the garden. I also love video games. My favorite video game is Halo.

So what keeps you coming to work?

I am passionate about helping the animals: they are the ones with no one to defend them.

Attend the Community Cat Coalition Trap/ Neuter/ Return Class at the Everett Animal Shelter on Saturday, March 22, from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Learn more about the Everett Animal Shelter. Plan a visit, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and check out all of our adoptable pets. And be sure to watch our featured Pet of the Week on the Everett Channel.

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