Spread the Relief even further as a Shelter Vet or Tech

Ross Zimmerman
November 10, 2023

Did you know Roo has a number of animal shelters on our platform where you can work a relief shift helping out for the day as a shelter vet or tech?

It’s National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week, and we wanted to spread the love by sharing some of the most rewarding shifts on the Roo platform (just ask any vet or tech who’s worked one)! 

Here’s what some of our top shelters had to say about how relief vets and techs help them: 

Spotlight on Roo Animal Shelters

spcaLA - Los Angeles, CA

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, spcaLA, was founded in 1877 and is Southern California’s largest and longest-serving animal welfare agency. spcaLA finds homes for more than 3,000 animals a year, and we are much more than an adoption agency! spcaLA has several programs and services that focus on violence intervention for youth and families in an effort to disrupt the cycle of violence for animals and people.

Check them out on: Facebook | Instagram | X 

East Bay SPCA - Oakland, CA

East Bay SPCA is a private, nonprofit shelter serving Contra Costa and Alameda counties. Their mission is to transform the lives of cats and dogs by enriching the human-animal bond through respected and accessible expertise. They have a range of programs that support our community focusing holistically on that important bond. “We are More Than a Shelter.”

Check them out on: Facebook | Instagram | Threads

Muttville - San Francisco, CA

Muttville Senior Dog Rescue was founded in 2007 by Sherri Franklin. Sherri was a volunteer at her local shelter for many years and recognized that senior dogs were often never put up for adoption and thus were euthanized. In 2007, she officially started Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, the first cage-free facility in the country. That first year, she saved 27 dogs from euthanasia. Over the last 16 years, Muttville has saved over 11,000 senior dogs from euthanasia. 

Muttville is unique because they rescue dogs ages seven and up that would have otherwise been euthanized. They like to say, “It’s never too late for a new beginning.” Muttville also has a hospice program for dogs that come into the shelter with terminal conditions (but still have a good quality of life). They find loving forever homes and help provide emotional and financial support for these dogs during the end of their lives.

Check them out on: Facebook | Instagram | X | LinkedIn
If you’d like to tour Muttville and their vet clinic, please reach out to angela@muttville.org

All of these great animal shelters, and so many more, are on the Roo platform offering vet and tech shifts. Check out the local shelters offering relief shifts in your area!

Why every Roo relief vet & tech should try shelter shifts

Easy Bay SPCA: Working at a nonprofit is rewarding, and at the end of the day, you know you are making a difference in people's lives when they have nowhere else to turn.  

We do everything we can to keep people and their pets together: meeting them where they are and making creative treatment plans that are realistic for families to follow. We also provide heavily discounted treatment to reduce euthanasia due to financial constraints faced by community members.

spcaLA: Working at a shelter is some of the most rewarding work you will do. You can see an immediate impact because your patients reside at our facilities. You can track daily progress and improvements and really get to know our shelter pets.

You will learn a lot about herd health and keeping a large population healthy, while honing your skills and learning lessons in veterinary medicine that can be implemented almost anywhere.

Muttville: We need you! If we don’t have relief technicians and veterinarians, our clinic would need to close on the days we are in need, and our dogs would not get the medical care they need. Work-life balance is incredibly important to Muttville, and we encourage our veterinary technicians and veterinarians to take time off when needed. These professionals need and deserve time away from the clinic so they can be their best selves when they are working.

I spent the first 12 years of my career in public-facing hospitals before I made the transition to shelter medicine but find that shelter medicine is more gratifying for me as a veterinary professional. It’s the best thing to see a dog come into the shelter in awful shape, to provide that animal with care, and then see it go into its forever home. We’re only a temporary part of each animal's journey, but our role during that time is incredibly impactful to the animal. 

How does shelter medicine compare to practicing in a clinic?

If you’ve never worked at a shelter before, picking up just one vet or tech shift is a great way to give it a try for a day and see how it feels. So what’s it like? 

spcaLA: Shelter medicine is the best medicine! Why? Because you are providing medical intervention for abused and neglected animals, animals without loving homes, and animals that have no one to advocate for them.

In a shelter, you can focus on direct animal care; there are no client consultations or production requirements. For us, it is quality of care not quantity. 

Muttville: Shelter medicine is very different from a public-facing clinic in that we are only a temporary stop in each dog’s journey to their forever home. Our job is to identify and treat pain, provide spay/neuter services, and to educate potential adopters about what is known about each dog. Because we are not a public-facing hospital, we don’t deal with clients. There are no appointment blocks, exam rooms, or treatment estimates to be approved.

Being a senior dog rescue, Muttville gets several dogs throughout the year that have some kind of terminal condition (but still have a good quality of life). Muttville doesn’t want to euthanize these dogs because we can’t cure their condition (especially because they seem so happy currently). Traditional veterinary care seeks to diagnose to cure with the goal of longevity. This kind of care isn’t always beneficial to hospice animals and can actually lead to more pain and a sooner end of life. What hospice medicine teaches is that these animals need focused pain and symptom relief to maintain quality of life for as long as possible. 

East Bay SPCA: We have a public community veterinary team and a shelter medicine team. East Bay SPCA uses Roo veterinarians primarily for their community medicine work.

Our community team sees regular appointments and works mainly with the underserved community who do not have anywhere else to turn. We receive referrals regularly from local general practices and emergency clinics to assist families in need of care. Our on-site Humane Advocacy team provides wrap-around case management to not only help these clients financially but to also make sure they have access to additional resources. Our community team also includes a team that alters over thirty dogs and cats a day. Most of these are owned animals, along with a handful of our shelter population.

Our shelter medicine team focuses on our shelter population, which can range between 2,500-3,000 animals a year. They focus on both the individual animal’s needs as well as the needs of the overall group of animals in our care. This team works closely with our foster volunteers and counsels adopters of animals needing ongoing medical care.

More Roo relief vets & techs = more shelter animals helped

One thing’s for certain: every Roo vet and tech can help each shelter treat even more pets! 

East Bay SPCA: The more animals we can see in our full-service Theodore B. Travers Family Veterinary Clinic, the more we can help people and animals in our community stay together, keeping animals out of shelters. 

Muttville: Roo relief vets and technicians were incredibly helpful at keeping our hospital open when we were on the hunt for our staff veterinarian. If Roo wasn’t there, we would have had to close the clinic for several days and/or not perform the needed dental and spay/neuter procedures. These relief doctors and technicians kept our hospital running, and our dogs were able to have their medical needs met. 

What to expect during your shelter shift

East Bay SPCA: Roo veterinarians at our full-service clinic see 17 appointments in a ten-hour shift. They see a wide range of cases, mainly focused on illness and chronic issues. 

spcaLA: Relief veterinarians and veterinary techs help the animals daily by providing exams, diagnosis, and treatment. Typically we intake 5-10 animals daily, and most often, the first face they see is the medical staff. We don’t know much about animals that come to us, so we rely on vet staff to tell us a little about them such as age, sex, and spay/neuter status. After preliminary exams, there’s diagnoses and treatment.

Muttville: Veterinarians perform physical exams, prescribe medications for ailments, and perform needed surgeries. Veterinary technicians help with exams, fill medications, perform diagnostics, and monitor anesthesia. 

One treatment that we have identified that almost immediately leads to an increase in the dogs’ quality of life is dental surgery. The majority of our dogs come into our shelter having received no dental care, and their mouths are rotten and very painful. We currently are able to provide dental surgeries for 60% of the dogs that enter our program, and it’s our goal to increase that number over the next few years.

A typical day at Muttville consists of overseeing the anesthetic plan for 2-4 dental procedures. We are very lucky to have a skilled veterinary dental technician that is able to do all of the necessary extractions. There are also 2-3 spay/neuter procedures on the schedule, sometimes a mass removal or a palliative procedure like an enucleation. 

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are intake days at Muttville, meaning we bring new dogs into our program on these days. The relief veterinarian would be responsible for doing a physical exam on these dogs, determining if they need spay/neuter or dental surgeries, and creating treatment plans for ailments identified during this exam (ear infections, eye infections, treatment for kennel cough, etc). The veterinarian would be supported by 2-4 veterinary technicians. 

What are some challenges unique to being a shelter vet or tech? 

Muttville: Shelter medicine is very different from public-facing medicine. We have to provide care to as many animals as possible and often do so with very limited resources. We have to look at the big picture. 

Because shelter veterinarians are treating animals without guardians, their caseload is often greater than that of a for-profit hospital. In municipal shelters, you don’t get to say you aren’t accepting new clients when your caseload gets too high, so it can be overwhelming at times. It can also be challenging in that the shelter has to make decisions around euthanasia (whether that be due to the poor quality of life of the patient, unsafe behavior, or unfortunately sometimes due to a lack of space in the shelter). The public backlash around having to make these decisions can be hard on mental health. 

Vets working at for-profit hospitals see their clients’ struggles with the affordability of veterinary care. Shelter veterinarians also experience the challenges of accessibility of veterinary care, except we are the guardians of the animals in our care. We have to manage the limited financial resources the shelter/non-profit has available for veterinary care. Our goal is to save as many dogs as possible, so sometimes that means reserving resources for dogs with a better prognosis. We wish that we could diagnose and cure every dog that comes through our door, but we are limited in the diagnostics and care that we can provide (just like pet guardians).

East Bay SPCA: Each shelter is unique and different in how they manage cases. For some, it is the worry that an animal will physically and mentally decline as they wait for a family. For others, it is population management when an infectious disease makes it into the shelter. It can also be animals that are shut down, scared, or aggressive and making the decision on what is best for their quality of life. 

Browse shelter vet & tech shifts today!

The ability to have unique, rewarding experiences is what relief work is all about! You can use Roo to give shelter medicine a whirl or simply just help out when you can!  

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  • Hospital Focus: “Shelter or Non-Profit”

spcaLA: As shelter vet staff, you are a voice for voiceless animals. With your help, they recover, rehabilitate, and in almost all cases, find new homes.

East Bay SPCA: If you want to feel good about what you are doing and make a difference, community or shelter medicine can really be the place for you. We are all unique with our programs, mission, and values; but at the end of the day, we are focused on animal welfare, and how we can support our communities.

Muttville: Every day I know that no matter what I do, I make a difference in each and every animal’s life.

Photo credit: East Bay SPCA

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