Updated Vaccination Protocol Streamlines Intake
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Humane Rescue Alliance

Updated Vaccination Protocol Streamlines Intake

Shelter medicine is a unique profession that is quickly becoming one of the most exciting and desirable destinations for veterinarians. From preventative medicine and infectious disease control to veterinary forensics, emergency care, and public health, shelter veterinarians must be able to adapt to the ever-changing needs of a shelter environment and provide innovative solutions to challenges not seen in most private practices.

Nowhere is that more evident than at the Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA), where our medical team serves more than 20,000 animals each year. At the forefront of shelter medicine, our medical team continues to grow and tackle the difficult challenges faced when treating animals from many different backgrounds, geographic locations, and varying levels of socialization.

Such was the case earlier this year when Dr. Jackie Hathaway, HRA’s Medial Director for Shelter Veterinary Services, did an in-depth analysis of HRA’s intake vaccination protocols, an integral part of population health management, and particularly important in a shelter environment where animals are housed with unknown health histories and stressors, resulting in a weakened immune system.

Humane Rescue Alliance Vaccination Intake

Historically, all adult dogs and cats coming into HRA either as strays or owner surrenders, and with no known vaccination history, were given a series of vaccinations at the time of intake (Canine: DA2PP and Bordetella, Feline: FVRCP and FVRC). As is common practice across open-admission shelters, rabies vaccination was not given at intake, but instead prior to an animal leaving the shelter, whether for foster placement, adoption, or return to owner. This procedure is due in part to a cost-savings effort to only vaccine animals for rabies with a confirmed live-release outcome.

With minimal risk of rabies transmission within a population of shelter animals, rabies it not commonly considered a core intake vaccine in the majority of shelters. According to the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program: "Rabies vaccine should be given at intake for dogs for whom a long-term shelter stay is anticipated, and for all dogs in shelters where virtually all dogs are adopted. For open-intake shelters, rabies vaccination at the time of surgery or release is often more practical.”

With a deep dive into the data, Dr. Hathaway and team were able to make the case that by including rabies vaccinations for all animals at intake, the process would not only streamline efforts for our front-line staff, but also across the entire organization, including medical, foster, and adoption.

“We found that by vaccinating all adult animals at the time of intake, we were not only streamlining the process for our medical and front line staff, but also reducing the number of roadblocks for our shelter animals to meet other animals, participate in play groups, adoption events, and go into foster homes,” said Dr. Hathaway.

What about the increased cost? Dr. Hathaway determined the cost was nominal, amounting to less than a $400 increase annually to administer the rabies vaccination to all adult animals at the time of intake. With a live release rate of 90%, the Humane Rescue Alliance is dedicated to investing in and caring for every animal that comes through our doors. The change to administering rabies at intake also shows HRA’s continued confidence in the live release rate of our shelter animals.

A seemingly small change, has made a substantial impact for our staff and the thousands of animals our staff care for each year. The Humane Rescue Alliance is fortunate to have such a talented, caring, and innovative group of professionals working on behalf of the animals of the District every day.

Humane Rescue Alliance vaccination intake

Posted by Dani Rizzo at 9:30 AM