A new program at UW-Madison seeks to help homeless people and their animals.

UW-Madison students and professors have teamed up to provide veterinary care for the pets of homeless people or residents facing homelessness.

Wisconsin Companion Animal Resources, Education and Social Services, or WisCARES, is a partnership between UW-Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine and School of Social Work. For about a year and a half, WisCARES has been operating a clinic that provides basic care to pets and social assistance to their owners.

“Animals, for anyone and particularly people experiencing homelessness, can provide a companionship,” said Maurice Gattis, an assistant professor at the School of Social Work. “They can provide protection. And so just really providing this service helps promote the human-animal bond.”

Gattis, who helped establish the program about two years ago, said veterinary students get to put their study into practice by providing basic check-ups and vaccinations for pets. People coming to the clinic also can receive educational and housing assistance from student volunteers who are pursuing social work degrees.

“They get inter-professional collaboration,” Gattis said of the student volunteers. “Even the training we have, it’s both for veterinarians and social workers.”

He said about 11 students volunteer for the social work side and 20 for the veterinary aspect.

William Gilles, Director of WisCARES, said local veterinarians also volunteer time at the clinic, which is run out of a building on Culmen Street owned by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The program focuses on vaccinating pets, preventing parasites and educating owners about healthy pet food and lifestyles.

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To date, the program has helped 170 families, a large majority of those in 2015. The program is funded by UW-Madison and, this year, by Banfield Charitable Trust.

Since most homeless shelters don’t allow animals, Gattis said WisCARES is able to hold some pets in Madison’s veterinary school for winter storms but space is limited.

New buildings at UW

The Wisconsin Building Commission this month approved two building projects at UW-Madison.

The university received approval for a nearly $35 million addition to the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant. The plan would add room for the Center for Dairy Research and remodel existing areas of the facility. Construction is due to wrap up around spring 2019.

Commission members also approved the construction of a roughly $5 million addition to the UW-Madison Police Department building, 1429 Monroe St., for training space, offices and a secure entrance to bring in detainees.

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