On a late Friday afternoon in May, an eight-month-old mixed breed dog was brought in to Philadelphia’s Animal Control Care Team facility on West Hunting Park Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia. “Michael” had severe bite wounds to his front leg and shoulder, deep tissue muscular damage and was in shock. His chances for survival were slim.
The ACCT animal control officer knew that, without access to a medical staff, the injured dog would most likely have been left overnight without treatment, or worse, he would have been euthanized due to the extent of his injuries. But because of the collaboration between Penn Vet’s Shelter Animal Program and Philadelphia’s Animal Control Care Team, Michael was met by a team of clinicians who rushed him into treatment.
Michelle Traverse, Penn Vet’s consulting technician to the Shelter Program, Penn Vet intern Dr. Mark Harmon and a handful of Shelter Animal Medicine students got to work on the critically injured dog. Michelle was able to advise Dr. Harmon on the shelter's policy for cases such as Michael, explain what tools and resources were available and suggest a basic plan for his care.
Thanks to the team’s quick and capable intervention, Michael received an intravenous fluid bolus, antibiotics, pain medication and basic wound care. In the absence of diagnostics, it was decided that if Michael could bear weight on the leg in the morning, his prognosis would be considered good enough to warrant pursuing care. If he was non-weight bearing in the morning, he would most likely be euthanized.
The following morning, Michelle came back to the shelter to check on Michael. He was able to bear weight on his injured leg. Over the next few days, the ACCT team cleaned, medicated and surgically repaired his extensive injuries. Michael was transferred to foster care, made a full recovery and, thankfully, was adopted into his forever home.
This young dog not only touched those who worked with him, but also taught our Penn Vet staff and students an important lesson: in an environment where diagnostic tools are limited, veterinarians have to be innovative and make decisions using whatever limited resources they may have. Although Michael’s story could have had a tragic outcome, the Penn Vet Shelter Medicine team’s resourcefulness, compassion and dedication gave him a second chance at life.
Michael’s case highlights how Penn Vet’s Shelter Medicine Program continues to affect better outcomes for Philadelphia's homeless animals. Thanks to generous support from Maddie's Fund, Penn Vet can continue its consultative, educational and veterinary support to local shelters, and especially to our primary facility, The Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT) of Philadelphia. ACCT is the region’s largest animal care and control service provider, taking in approximately 32,000 cases per year.