With the recent economic challenges, horses have been one of the silent victims of the downturn. All across the country, horse owners are voluntarily surrendering their animals, putting a huge burden on rescue organizations. But out of this crisis, some organizations have partnered with veterinary clinics and become a safe haven for these animals.
The relationship between The Oaks Veterinary Clinic in Smithfield, Va., and the Diamonds in the Rough Rescue is one of these bright examples.
Founded in 1966 as a mixed practice, The Oaks grew over the years and in 2004 evolved into a full- service large-animal practice with a strong focus on horses. Since then, they have seen a definite increase in the number of horses being surrendered or taken due to financial difficulties.
?We saw these cases on the rise, and a longtime client of ours started doing rescues out of her existing boarding facilities and asked us to help her out, which we were happy to do,? says Dr. Cathy Lombardi, DVM, who has been with The Oaks since 2004. ?In 2010, she transitioned to a non-for-profit rescue, Diamonds in the Rough, due to the sheer volume of horses that were being surrendered.?
Two years later, Diamonds in the Rough takes in as many as 20 horses a month, and Dr. Lombardi has a standing Tuesday appointment to deal with the new horses and the existing ones in the program.
?Diamonds in the Rough has a program built around the four R?s ? Rescue, Restore, Retrain and Rehome ? and we are pleased that we can be part of that program,? Dr. Lombardi says. ?We work primarily with the Rescue and Restore portions of the program to determine the rescues? medical needs and to get them in adoption shape.?
Not only does Dr. Lombardi say that this volunteer work makes her a better veterinarian, since she is dealing with conditions and cases weekly that she wouldn?t normally see in the clinic, but it is a way to give back to the community.
?Through our work with Diamonds in the Rough, we are able to really give back to the community and educate future horse owners,? Dr. Lombard says. ?Diamonds in the Rough requires a certain amount of volunteer time from those that adopt horses, and this allows us to make sure they know the requirements of responsible horse ownership.?
According to Lombardi, Diamonds in the Rough has a large volunteer force, not including herself, farriers and trainers, but the cost to run a quality rescue is tremendous. This fact makes the need for donations critical.
?Many of the horses that come in to the rescue are underweight and have no vaccination records,? Dr. Lombardi says. ?This combination makes them more susceptible, and when you look at the money allocation in a non-profit, vaccines sometimes have to go by the wayside.?
Knowing this, Lombardi and her colleagues at The Oaks reached out to Pfizer Animal Health earlier this year seeking a donation of vaccines to help with their work.
?We work very closely with our veterinary partners, and when doctors at The Oaks reached out to us for help, we jumped at the chance,? says Palmer Valentine Territory Manager, Equine Division, Pfizer Animal Health. ?Pfizer Animal Health was able to donate 100 doses of WEST NILE-INNOVATOR? ?+ VEWT vaccine so that these horses can have the protection they need.?
The WEST NILE-INNOVATOR + VEWT vaccine aids in the prevention of viremia caused by West Nile virus; equine encephalomyelitis due to Eastern, Western and Venezuelan encephalomyelitis viruses; and tetanus. But Dr. Lombardi adds that the vaccines do more than that; they give the horse the best possible chance for adoption.
?By starting the horses out with the preventative vaccines, that is less that a new owner has to do,? Dr. Lombardi says. ?This makes adoption easier and starts the horse out on the right foot in its new home.?
While Diamonds in the Rough may be unique in its approach, it is not unique in the work that it does. Across the country, you can find a variety of rescue organizations that are working to rehabilitate surrendered horses and put them in good homes.
?In talking with our veterinary partners, we know that the need is there for horses across the country,? Valentine says. ?At Pfizer Animal Health, we try to do our part, but there is so much that these organizations need beyond monetary donations.?
Lombardi was quick to agree.
?Even if you're not a horse person, if you have a passion for these animals, this is a great way to learn,? Dr. Lombardi says. ?Organizations like Diamonds in the Rough are fueled by their volunteers, and they are always in need of additional help.?
If you are in Virginia and would like to get involved with Diamonds in the Rough, you can find them at www.adoptditr.org.