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Bright Ideas 2017: Delivering social services via veterinary care

Bright Ideas 2017: Delivering social services via veterinary care

From the Bright Ideas 2017 series
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Dr. Katie Kuehl holds one of her patients at the Dane County Humane Society shelter.

For the fourth year, Cap Times reporters have asked several Madisonians to share "bright ideas" they have for the coming year. We will publish the 2017 edition of Bright Ideas throughout the next week.

Here’s something that I think is really cool that’s happening in the veterinary community right now. It’s a group called WisCARES.

We realized there were all these people that had pets, but that had trouble accessing the veterinary care they needed. There were reasons why they were having difficulty getting that care, from homelessness to poverty.

Under the leadership of Dr. William Gilles, the organization has taken off and is now part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. The focus is now a “one health” initiative, trying to support people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, and trying to keep their pets with them. In keeping in touch with these people via their pets, the school is also partnering with the school of social work and the pharmacy school. It’s looking at not only the health of animals, but also people who need help in the community.

People think of veterinary medicine as different from human medicine. But people who might be on the fringes of society, they may not trust a social worker, but they’ll trust their veterinarian. And through that relationship, they may be able to get the care they need.

It has to do with the human-animal bond. We all know how important that bond is, right? When you go home after a hard day, it’s your animal at home that can make everything better.

What WisCARES is working on now is a foster care program for animals. They’ve been piloting this program for a year now. When we started this program, we were worried about how many owners would take back their animals. But all of them do.

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