HOUSTON – A new university program exposes veterinary students to animal cruelty, neglect and trauma cases.

The Houston SPCA (Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences have collaborated on the program, which goes beyond the typical treatment and care of cats and dogs. A goal of the program is to ensure that future veterinarians experience the full spectrum of shelter medicine and animal welfare, which includes rescue and forensics investigations for all species.

"As a leader in animal welfare, both nationally and in our own community, the Houston SPCA is honored to partner with Texas A&M to offer this unique learning opportunity for veterinary students," said Patricia Mercer, president of the Houston SPCA. "The number of species the students will work with and the enormous number of animals we rescue from cruelty cases and through our 24-hour ambulance will provide students with an unparalleled opportunity which should serve as a national model."

The Houston SPCA annually investigates more than 9,000 cases of animal abuse and neglect. The shelter is also the only animal welfare organization in the United States that serves all species on one campus. Fourth-year students from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences will rotate through a required two-week program at the Houston SPCA where they will work alongside experts investigating cases of animal cruelty, neglect and trauma.

"There's no better way to gain immersive, hands-on experience than at a shelter such as the Houston SPCA which sees over 26,000 animals per year," said Dr. Eleanor Green, Dean of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the only veterinary college in the state of Texas. "We have a responsibility to provide a dynamic and engaging learning environment for our students that challenges them to perform at their very best and prepares them to be career ready at graduation."

PetSmart Charities Inc. provides some funding for the university program. PetSmart Charities is a nonprofit animal-welfare organization that finds homes for more than 400,000 dogs and cats every year through its adoption program in PetSmart stores and adoption events.

"As the largest funder of animal-welfare efforts in North America, PetSmart Charities is committed to addressing pet overpopulation at the community level," said Jan Wilkins, executive director of PetSmart Charities. "We are proud to support this initiative that prepares the next generation of veterinarians to help sterilize pets prior to adoption, including puppies and kittens, while also educating about shelter medicine and the devastating effects of animal abuse and neglect."