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News Clips 07/16/2014
HAARTS lets UF vet students care for animals
Source: Gainesville Sun, 07/16/14
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By Darlena Cunha
A little terrier snuggled up in his owner's house for the last time one night a few months ago, and he didn't even know it.
The next day, the family dropped him off at a shelter and relinquished their rights to him. Little Aiden had a fractured leg and they couldn't afford the medical bills.
When this sort of thing happens, the animals sometimes are euthanized because the shelters can't heal the injuries or illnesses, and the dogs and cats are deemed unadoptable.
Enter the HAARTS Program.
Helping Alachua's Animals Requiring Treatment and Surgery is a volunteer program where veterinary students from the University of Florida for nearly five years have offered their services for free to animals in need. The students get valuable experience doing actual surgeries and repairs, and the animals get another chance at life.
“We've helped 1,500 animals that would have been euthanized,” said Natalie Isaza, the service chief for the community outreach program through the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine. “We do things as simple as heartworm treatment — which is another reason animals are euthanized — all the way up to ruptured eyes and broken bones.”
The HAARTS program works with shelters like Gainesville Pet Rescue, Helping Hands Rescue, Puppy Hill Farm, Haile's Angels and WAG (Williston Animal Group). When one of the shelters receives an animal in need of medical attention, they reach out to HAART and student surgeons get on the case.
The program also does routine checks on the shelters to make sure they don't miss any animals in need. Once the pets have been operated on, they go to a safe rescue facility and then foster homes while they recover. After that, they're ready for adoption.
In the case of the spritely terrier Aiden, the students are in the process of wellness and recovery checks on his leg, and he's currently in a foster home.
“When he first came in, he was so scared,” said Isaza. “He went from someone's home to a shelter, and didn't understand why he was there. After he had surgery, we spent a lot of time getting his confidence up and giving him love, and now he's one of the most adoptable dogs we have.”
The HAARTS program was started in 2009 with grant money and survives mostly on donations. Over this past weekend, Katie's Locker, a fundraising arm for animal programs in the area, put on a silent auction at the 20th annual Bob Dooley Golf Tournament, offering four sports memorabilia items for grabs.
The money raised won't be tallied until next week, but the event organizer, Gainesville Sun sports columnist Pat Dooley, said the cause was worthwhile no matter the funds. Estimates are in the thousands, though, and whatever money raised will go directly to the animals in need.
“Katie's Locker contacted me to raise money for the program,” said Dooley, “and they've been a big supporter of our tournament over the years, so we were happy to partner with them on this.”