Annual Veterinary Conference Morphs into Free Clinic for Pets of Denver’s Homeless Population

You likely have a pretty darn good soul to become a veterinarian — at the very least, you have to love animals. That was obvious at this year’s annual convention for the American Veterinary Medical Association when it was turned into a medical drive for the pets of Denver’s homeless population.

Conducted in partnership with the city’s Street Dog Coalition (SDC) and several corporate sponsors, the 2023 event allowed citizens to bring in animals to receive free health checks, vaccinations, and needed supplies to take along with them. While there, pet owners were provided with a referral for a spay/neuter procedure or follow-up vaccines, depending on what was required within the confines of Denver.

dog at vet
Photo: Pixabay/mirkosajkov

Homelessness & Pets

While the topic is controversial with some, companion animals provide a lot of emotional support to those facing homelessness.

“I think there’s a big judgment and stigma out there about, ‘gosh you need to be able to afford everything or you shouldn’t have a pet,’ and I really struggle with that,” noted Dr. Ashley Ackley, one of the volunteer veterinarians who attended the convention.

“People experiencing homelessness have incredibly strong bonds with their pets, who provide companionship, purpose, and unconditional love. By providing free compassionate care to both ends of the leash, we hope to help preserve, protect, and strengthen those bonds,” added Katrina Weschler, Executive Director of The Street Dog Coalition.

homeless man with dog
Photo: Pixabay/sinzicraciun0

The Street Dog Coalition

According to The Street Dog Coalition’s Denver website, their “mission is to provide free medical care and related services to pets of people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. Using a One Health approach to street medicine, we care for the mental and physical health on both ends of the leash.”

In May 2015, the first Street Dog Clinic took place in Fort Collins, Colorado, across from the Sister Alice Murphy Center for Hope. Twenty-five dogs and five cats received free veterinary care from a team of five veterinarians, four veterinary technicians, three veterinary students, and several dedicated volunteers. The Street Dog Coalition has since expanded to over 60 cities across the U.S.

homeless man with dog
Photo: Pixabay/SaraVaccari

Fighting for the Voiceless

Jon Geller, DVM, and SDC Founder, has said, “It’s amazing what we can do when we come together to make these clinics happen.”

One woman by the name of Lori Harmon, who is a client of The Street Dog Coalition, shared, “There’s no judgment at the clinic, only care and love from Dr. Geller and the other volunteers. They understand that these animals are our kids. They hold our lives together and keep us going.”

Dr. Geller is well-known for his tireless efforts in helping animals, including those in Ukraine. In addition to volunteers, monetary and in-kind donations are also vital to keeping the SDC going. Learn more by watching the video below.

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