College of Veterinary Medicine teams with local animal shelter to expand care

Natalie Akerill, sophomore in animal sciences and industry, plays with a dog named Lilah while volunteering for the T. Russell Reitz Animal Shelter. Lilah is one of the many dogs up for adoption at the center that will receive veterinary care from K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine. (Caleb Pfeifer | Collegian Media Group)

After finalizing a deal in January, the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University and the T. Russell Reitz Animal Shelter have partnered up to help promote animal welfare, provide better care to local animals and help maintain animal populations in Manhattan.

Brad Crauer and Alyssa Comroe, clinical assistant professors of shelter medicine at K-State, are two veterinarians who have been working in this partnership prior to its finalization.

“I contacted T. Russell four years ago when I initially came on board at K-State to help develop a shelter medicine program,” Crauer said. “At that point in time, our two organizations didn’t line up as far as our mission. Since then, we did have pretty regular dialogue, checking in to see how things were going or where services could be utilized.”

Last year, the Reitz Animal Shelter and Crauer exchanged conversations about this partnership. Due to other recent changes at the Reitz Animal Shelter, they determined the time had come for a partnership to form.

The partnership between the animal shelter and the veterinary college was originally planned to be finalized in June 2019. However, the partnership began in January due to the parties involved working at a fast pace ahead of schedule.

Crauer said the partnership progressed quickly thanks to the leadership of Deb Watkins, manager at the Reitz Animal Shelter.

“Once Deb Watkins started at the first of the year, things were really fast tracked,” Crauer said. “I’ve had a good rapport with Deb since the start.”

Although the partnership has already had its start, Comroe said some aspects are still evolving.

“Since the animal shelter wanted to elevate the standard for animal care, we don’t just visit once a week like we do with other shelters,” Comroe said. “We visit a couple times a week. We are providing all medical care and oversight for the animals at the shelter. We are continuing to implement other protocols and helping manage the animal population.”

Comroe added that the early start to the partnership has had its drawbacks.

“Things are still changing and improving, as we had originally planned to have the partnership begin in June,” Comroe said. “We still need to figure some things out here and there.”

Crauer said one key benefit of the partnership between the veterinary college and the animal shelter is to help students in their first, second and third years build up their skills in a variety of areas, including anesthesia, surgery preparation, recovery and assisting hired interns with other medical support.

“Having this opportunity will be able to help our students in gaining experience,” Comroe said. “By having a shelter in their own backyard that we hope to eventually have as a model shelter, we can give our students great experiences in observing surgeries, performing physicals and other medical triage.”

This goal won’t be achieved alone, Comroe added.

“Us and T. Russell need support from the Manhattan community,” Comroe said. “In order for us to save more animals, we need our community to step up with fostering, spaying and neutering their own pets since we have an overpopulation problem, and adopting pets.”

The Reitz Animal Shelter is open Monday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.