Students gain experience working at Animal Shelter

BATAVIA, OH — Grant Career Center Veterinary Science Program students have begun gaining first-hand experience at the Clermont County Animal Shelter as part of an expanding internship program.

The partnership was initiated after Lois Abbott, longtime veterinary technician at the shelter, contacted Grant Career Center Veterinary Science Program instructor Katie Kline. Abbott had taught Kline in the Veterinary Technology program at the University of Cincinnati Clermont College before Kline went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Bowling Green State University.

“We wanted to see if we could coordinate to fulfill mutual needs,” Abbott said. “This would allow us to provide hands-on training as well as to help us with our tasks at the shelter.”

Kline was excited to hear from Abbott because the opportunity fit perfectly with the Grant Center program. The center was the first high school in Ohio to be approved to teach the NAVTA Approved Veterinary Assistant Credential. Students must master more than 130 essential skills, complete 100 hours in a veterinary clinic, and pass an end-of-course examination to earn the designation. Students that successfully complete the Veterinary Science Program can earn a certificate of completion in veterinary science, independent of the NAVTA AVA designation.

“The ability to partner students with pets up for adoption has been our mission since the program began in 2014,” Kline said. “We have been housing dogs and cats for a local rescue since the inception of the program, however the ability for students to travel to the shelter adds tremendous value. I am so glad we were both able to make this happen for the animals and the students.”

At the shelter, high school juniors and seniors learn kennel procedures and basic veterinary procedures such as microchipping, drawing blood samples and running tests. They start out helping in the kennel in the morning, then transition to helping Abbott with procedures until the time they have to leave.

“I’ve always had a passion for animals; I just like helping them,” said Cheyenne McMuoren, a senior who plans to study to become a vet tech at Sinclair Community College en route to becoming a veterinarian. She appreciates the hands-on experience, including administering a microchip on her first day.

At this time, a student visits the shelter on Wednesdays and Thursdays, for three to four hours. The hope is to add another group of three or four students who will come with their instructor to help with bathing, grooming and medical procedures. All 17 juniors and 17 seniors in the program are rotating through at least once.

This year, the Veterinary Science internship program has expanded to include 11 local veterinary, shelter and kennel business partners.  Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday 6-10 students go to an internship site instead of class and apply their knowledge on the job. Every student in Veterinary Science can participate, and Grant Career Center is providing transportation. The goal is for the business partners to benefit along with the students, as students can perform some of the skills of veterinary assistants, groomers and kennel attendants. Internships also lead to job offers when a student is observed to be a good fit for a business partner. The program was piloted on a very small-scale last year and Kline is thrilled that so many business partners in Clermont County agreed to participate.

Once all students have completed a rotation through each location, plans call for narrowing the focus for students based on interest, so a student with a strong interest in rescue and shelter medicine can spend more time at the shelter.

The Veterinary Science program began in the 2014/2015 school year. Graduates are employed in veterinary clinics, grooming salons, dental offices, and boarding facilities. Many students are either in college or graduating.  The fields of study range from veterinary technology, pre-vet, dental assisting, education, and agriculture.

“My students can apply the concepts and skills they learn in the classroom in a real-world setting,” Kline said. “There is the added benefit of students seeing firsthand the importance of spay and neuter practices, preventative medicine, and supporting local shelters and rescues that step in and save homeless pets in our immediate area. Hopefully, they will become advocates for spay/neuter programs and educate their friends and families to help prevent more homeless pets in Clermont County.”

Abbott adds: “I feel that this is a very worthwhile arrangement for both parties. Nothing replaces learning in a real life situation. In fact, I would like to develop other, similar partnerships in the future. Also, it can never hurt to show community members the high standard of care provided to our dogs. We are very proud of what we do here!”