Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) Veterinary Nursing students have been run off their feet by hundreds of furry paws this week, in the Free Annual Pet Health Clinic, with significantly more animals seen this year. At least 150 more pets than 2019 have had a check-up of some kind, due to an increase in the number of days the clinic has functioned.
The event takes place in October every year, and this year there’s been an increase in capacity for the free service check on cats, dogs and rabbits – around 400 of Invercargills’ pets have had appointments at SIT’s Animal Wellness Clinic this week, compared to 250 pets last year.
Mel Shuttleworth, Vet Nursing tutor, said they’ve been able to increase the number of clinic days due to a particularly large class of NZ Diploma in Veterinary Nursing students this year, allowing them to extend their operation to four days instead of the usual two. The diploma class usually has around twelve students, but the 2020 class has twenty-one students, providing greater numbers of students to run the free clinic.
“The large number of students is purely due to the popularity of the diploma course”, she said.
She said having the increased capacity to see more pets is really beneficial, as they don’t like having to say no to people when all the available appointments have been filled.
“It’s great to be able to accommodate extra animals, a lot of people miss out every year, they only find out about the clinic and it’s full already, it’s nice not having to turn people away”.
The vet nursing students run a range of health checks and services during the clinic, including: flea and worming treatments, nail trimming, microchipping, plus advice on animal husbandry, nutrition and dental care.
All services are free, however, there’s a discounted $15 fee that applies to the microchipping, in order for the animal to be included in the National Companion Animal Register (NZCAR).
Ms Shuttleworth said the most in-demand service by far is the microchipping, with cats “way more popular” this year, whereas in 2019 they saw larger numbers of dogs. She said it’s a sensible option to get them registered on the NZCAR, although there’s a local data base here for dogs with the council, there is no local database for cats.
Species seen at the clinic are limited to cats, dogs and rabbits, even though they receive requests to take lambs, birds, rats, mice and guinea pigs. Ms Shuttleworth said they have to limit it to three species as it would be too stressful for the other animals to cope with the clinic environment.
The clinic doesn’t just benefit animals, it provides other positive outcomes, like assisting in the students’ professional development. Interacting with human clients is a fundamental part of their training, as is successfully operating as part of an animal care team.
Ms Shuttleworth gave special mention to all the sponsors involved, saying “they’re amazing!”, and how much SIT appreciates their presence at the clinic during the week, providing technical support to the students with onsite training. Purina, Zoetis, SPCA, Royal Canin, and Dynavyte all play an important role in helping the clinic happen.
“And thanks to ICC animal control team, who have been here for a few hours every day, helping with dog microchipping”.
Raffles and a sausage sizzle are also run during the week, with all proceeds going to the SPCA.
Ms Shuttleworth said although COVID hasn't had an impact on the students studying this year, they’ve already seen many enrolments for next year, due to loss of jobs and people retraining. It’s feasible the free clinic could be able to run in its extended format if class sizes remained large.
Enrolments are being taken now for 2021 in the NZ Diploma in Veterinary Nursing. Phone 0800 40 3337, or visit: https://study.sit.ac.nz/Vet-Nursing