My position entails travelling to our four animal centres and examining the animals, making protocols for their treatment, making protocols to maintain the health of the shelter and doing spays and neuters of our animals to get them ready for adoption.
I did my doctor of veterinary medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph. Before that, I completed a bachelor of science in wildlife biology, also at Guelph.
I had always wanted to be a veterinarian from the time I was young. I volunteered at veterinary clinics and shelters when I was in elementary school. After my undergraduate degree, I became a veterinary technician and worked for three years before going back to become a veterinarian.
Becoming a shelter veterinarian is a unique career direction. Most graduates go into private practice. There are fewer opportunities to work in a municipal shelter. The city of Toronto employs two full-time and two part-time veterinarians. Lots of municipalities surrounding the city don't employ veterinarians at all.
I enjoy being an advocate for animals without owners or other people to speak up for and protect them.
My experience volunteering at animal shelters prior to becoming a veterinarian taught me about animal behaviour in shelters and common diseases. In vet school I learned how to diagnose and treat diseases, care for animals as individuals and as populations. I also learned about surgery.
After veterinary medicine, to gain more experience in shelter medicine I pursued continuing education in the form of online courses, webinars and conferences. If you're interested in becoming a shelter veterinarian, you need to get more experience in the field. Lots of schools in the U.S. have residency programs. It's an area of specialization.
A shelter veterinarian needs to have stamina for high-volume surgery and must enjoy developing protocols for cleaning to prevent disease. I perform surgery one day a week, and my other four days are shelter days. The part-time veterinarians work with us two to three days a week, so it's very intensive.
The best veterinarians understand the human-animal bond. Some animals you come in contact with have a human attached, and you have to be able to communicate well with people and pay attention to their non-verbal as well as verbal cues. You have to have empathy, dedication and problem-solving abilities.
In vet school, there was a course called The Art Of Veterinary Medicine, and we did practice interviews with clients in a private-practice setting. We watched videotapes of our interactions with clients, and instructors analyzed our body language and ability to listen and communicate and gave us feedback.
My best experiences are days when I feel I'm having an impact on the homeless animal population. When there are fewer animals coming into the shelters, I can attribute that to our spay and neuter efforts. When animals coming into the shelters are having briefer stays, I can attribute that to our increased adoptions, fostering and ability to return pets to their owners.