To improve the lives of companion animals and reduce the surplus of cats and dogs in Tennessee, the Companion Animal Initiative in Tennessee, or CAIT, works to educate the public on humane practices and promotes spay and neuter initiatives. CAIT brings communities together to find solutions to pet issues that impact them directly, such as animal hoarding, dog fighting, puppy mills, and other forms of animal abuse. CAIT programs provide veterinary care for pets of people experiencing homelessness, and community access to spay and neuter clinics. Veterinary student programs offered through CAIT include elective courses in shelter medicine, cultural influence on animal health care, and responsible pet ownership. The program is responsible for the Tennessee Animal Law Book, a legislative network and series of public forums. CAIT started in 2005 as the result of the “Nine Counties One Vision” Animal Welfare Taskforce. Nearly 500 UT students and over 100 faculty members have been involved in CAIT since the start of the program.
Community partners include Animal Control Association of Tennessee, Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association, Young Williams Animal Center, Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association, Feline Friends of East TN, Appalachia Feral Cat Alliance, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Novartis, Abbott Animal Health, Nestle-Purina, community veterinarians, and local caretakers and animals shelters. Partners at the University of Tennessee include UT’s Veterinary Medical Center, the Institute for Agriculture’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Law, and Veterinary Social Work Services.
Impact on UT
CAIT provides opportunities for veterinary students to develop hands-on knowledge and expertise in shelter medicine. Students address pet problems related to abandoned and homeless animals, cultural differences that impact receptiveness to veterinary medical care for pets, how to educate the general public regarding pet ownership and pet health, and develop surgical skills through observational and hands-on participation in spay and neuter clinics.
Impact on Community
CAIT offers public educational opportunities for animal owners and the general public about the responsibilities of pet ownership and the realities of animal overpopulation. CAIT also ameliorates pet overpopulation directly via spay and neuter clinics and the capture and spaying/neutering of feral cats. CAIT collaborates with local and state governments in constructing laws and policies that address animal abuse, and partners with local veterinary providers to deliver preventative health care. CAIT trains veterinary students in the professional delivery of spay and neuter services to a broad variety of public consumers, while also providing students with experiential understanding of the realities of animal shelter medicine.
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