Equine Shelter to Receive Vet Assistance through 'Voluntourism' Project

Veterinarians will have the opportunity to volunteer their time at a Seattle-area equine rescue when they gather for the 2009 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) conference.

Hope for Horses is the first equine shelter to become a part of the AVMA's annual project.

Hope for Horses is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization that works with neglected, abused, and abandoned horses in Washington. Veterinarians and other conference attendees who volunteer through the AVMA will paint barns and assist in repairing stalls, walls, and fences.

"In tough economic times, we must put off minor or cosmetic repairs in favor of continuing to provide a high level of care for the neglected, abused, and abandoned horses that we take in," said Jenny Edwards, executive director of Hope for Horses. "With the AVMA's help, we will be able to accomplish some tasks we couldn't otherwise do."

The annual AVMA convention gathers between 10,000 and 12,000 attendees, including veterinarians and their families, each year. The AVMA represents 78,000 veterinarians, including about 86% of the veterinarians in the United States today.

The "voluntourism" aspect of the annual convention came about after Hurricane Katrina left many animals abandoned and animal shelters in dire need of assistance.

"We wanted to find something we could do to help the animals that were injured, hurt, and displaced in Katrina," said Bruce W. Little, DVM, coordinator for the American Veterinary Medical Foundation voluntourism project and former executive vice president of the AVMA. The group sought out animal shelters in New Orleans that needed assistance, and last year began offering the service opportunity.

The American Veterinary Medical Foundation is the not-for-profit sector of the AVMA. After the huge success in New Orleans, the Foundation took the reins on the voluntourism project and began planning for 2009.

When selecting shelters for the voluntourism project, the Foundation contacts the city convention and visitors bureau where the convention will take place and asks for contact information of local animal shelters in need. Local veterinarians then visit the shelters to determine what assistance can be provided.

For more information about the American Veterinary Medical Foundation's voluntourism project, visit www.avmf.org.

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