CHARLESTON — Making animals easier to adopt and giving veterinary students needed experience are what organizers say are the benefits of a new program at the Coles County Animal Rescue and Education Center.
Students from the University of Illinois School of Veterinary Medicine have been visiting the Coles County shelter and others as part of their surgical training rotation. They’re doing spay and neuter surgeries, procedures the shelter requires for animals that are adopted.
The program for the students began in January and lets students experience 30 or more surgeries, while before they likely did only one or two before graduating, said Bob Weedon, a U of I instructor who was at the shelter with three students last week.
“There are an increasing number of shelters we’re going to and hope to really increase the number of surgeries the students get,” he said.
Another benefit of the program is that spaying and neutering help decrease the population of unwanted animals and make it easier for people who adopt pets to make sure the procedures take place, Weedon added. Shelters that provide vouchers for spaying and neutering, for example, often see a low redemption rate, he said.
“They’re seeing people bring animals back to the shelter,” he said.
The Coles County shelter started participating in the program last month, and it has helped people who adopt take their pets home more quickly, shelter manager Julie Deters said. With the animals that receive the students’ surgeries, the shelter no longer has to make arrangements for a licensed veterinarian to do the procedures, she said.
“The animals can go home the same day,” Deters said. “We benefit from it, and the animals benefit from it.”
The U of I students are in their final year of veterinary school and spend two weeks in the surgery rotation. They’ve also worked at shelters in Champaign, Douglas and Vermilion counties.
“It’s an amazing experience,” said Lindsay Stanko, a Buffalo Grove native who was one of the students at the shelter Wednesday. “We don’t get a lot of spays and neuters through school.”
Student Kaitlyn Zebold of Darien said the program is “rewarding for the community and for us.”
Deters said the animals on which the students perform the surgeries have been adopted or have pending adoption applications, or shelter workers have determined that they’re likely to be adopted.
She also said she’s trying to make arrangements for the students to do surgeries for pets belonging to low-income families.