Granted, every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday many Penn vet students perform these activities at ACCT anyway, as part of their clinical training.
What blows me away is that many more of them then return on their own time to provide thousands more hours of free care.
"They're incredible," says Sue Cosby, executive director of ACCT, which is paid by the city to manage more than 32,000 stray and unwanted animals collected by ACCT staffers or dropped at the center.
That number includes 30 litters of cats per day, in addition to dogs, birds, tiny animals and the occasional exotic reptile.
"We have three staff veterinarians and a team of veterinary nurses. But the students provide additional hands-on help," says Cosby. "They also bring so much passion and energy. They came in on the Fourth of July! But that's typical of them."
I was at ACCT with the students because, on July 21, I will be emceeing t he "Black and White Ball (With a Touch of Fur)," a fabulous fundraiser at Le Meridien Philadelphia in Center City.
Chock-a-block with live bands, DJs, gourmet grub and a fashion show, its proceeds will benefit Penn's vet school. Specifically, its growing shelter-animal medicine program, which plays out at ACCT, the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and the Pennsylvania SPCA.
Before the big party, though, I wanted to see the program in action.
I'd already met with Penn vet's Dr. Michael Moyer, who established the program in 2006, and with his colleague Dr. Rachael Kreisler, who is expanding its clinical-teaching and academic core.
They had enlightened me about the urgent need for prompt care for shelter animals. Basically, the sooner an animal can be evaluated, spayed or neutered and pronounced healthy, the sooner it has a chance to be adopted. Or at least fostered until a permanent home can be found.
The need is overwhelming.
Of the 32,119 animals handled by ACCT last year, 12,476 were euthanized before they could be placed. An additional 3,016 were dead on arrival or succumbed shortly afterward, many from diseases that are avoided by pets lucky enough to have received vaccinations and other routine care.
"We just don't see these illnesses in the general animal population because of prevention," Moyer said.
Penn's shelter-animal medicine program, therefore, does more than provide treatment to animals in need. It also gives students the chance to recognize and treat conditions they probably wouldn't see in a general practice. So their experience is broader, post-grad, than it would be if they hadn't logged so many hours in the shelter.
On July 4, the ACCT surgical suite was being overseen by Kreisler, who moved among its three operating tables — supervising, encouraging, assisting. The students spayed and neutered cats and dogs, treated a German shepherd's leg tumor and tried valiantly to save a kitten whose lungs were a mess when she was admitted.
The pace was nonstop, the variety of maladies so interesting that, says Kreisler, "By the time many of our students graduate, they've already performed hundreds of surgeries."
Thanks in part to Penn's program, notes ACCT executive director Cosby, shelter medicine is becoming a hot specialty. Students who once might have looked down on the field, preferring a more boutique practice, are now excited by it.
The practice requires creative thinking about population management. The ability to stretch scant resources to help the most animals. A chance to advocate for an animal's life, without having to yield to a pet owner who might prefer to euthanize.
Plus, the pace is lively, the cases interesting and the need unquestioned.
"When I started in this business, it was difficult to find vets who were willing to work in shelters or understood the complexities of handling a large population of animals," Cosby says. "Now it's easy to find new grads who have a passion for shelters. We've needed the change for a long time."
That's why I'm thrilled to be part of next weekend's fund-raiser at Le Meridian. If you feel inclined to help, I'd love to see you there.
These animals deserve a chance.
For more info, go to blackandwhiteball2012.com. To foster a shelter animal, check out pspca.org, phillypaws.org or acctphilly.org.
Contact email@example.com. Call 215-854-2217. Blog: philly.com/ronnieblog. Twitter: @RonniePhilly.