The Street Dog Coalition is the result of veterinarian Dr. Jon Geller identifying a need and doing something about it. He recognized the lack of access to veterinary care for pets of people experiencing homelessness and he set out to provide just that. In May 2015, the first Street Dog Coalition clinic took place in Fort Collins, CO, home of Colorado State University’s (CSU) College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. The clinic was set up near a day shelter for people experiencing homelessness in Larimer County, CO. Twenty-five dogs and five cats received free veterinary care at this clinic from a team of five veterinarians, four veterinary technicians, three veterinary students, and several volunteers. The Coalition has expanded its geographic footprint substantially since then and now hosts pop-up street clinics in more than fifty cities across the United States.
In the words of Dr. Geller: “It’s amazing what we can do when we come together to make these clinics happen.” For example, beginning in 2019, the Fort Collins SDC team partnered with CSU’s Inclusive Health Collaborative. As a result of this collaboration, SDC works with veterinary, medical, and social work students at their weekly Tuesday clinic, caring for the lives on both ends of the leash. This is a great example of a “One Health Clinic” — providing a unique, interdisciplinary way to provide healthcare to individuals and their pets as a family unit.
Similar to how he started The Street Dog Coalition in 2015–identifying a need and doing something about it–Dr. Geller identified a need in Ukraine and did something about it. He understood that refugees would have to abandon their pets if they couldn’t get the required rabies vaccination, microchip and pet passport to continue on their journey. This led him to the southern Ukraine-Romania border where he spent 12 days vet checking pets of war refugees alongside other volunteer agencies.
Recent Activity of The Street Dog Coalition Relating to the Conflict in Ukraine
Dr. Geller and his cohort ran their vet checks out of a large blue tent (they quickly became known as the “Blue Vet Group”) in Isaccea, a Romanian town on the Danube River in between Ukraine and Romania. Dr. Geller partnered with a local NGO, Save the Dogs Romania, to provide the required vet checks for pets of Ukrainian refugees. He discovered some specific challenges while providing veterinary care for these animals.
For example, the European Union has rules on traveling to another country in the EU with your pet. Your pet can travel with you from a non-EU country (Ukraine is not a member of the EU) to an EU country. However, the pet must be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies, and received treatment against the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis, and have a valid European pet passport. Microchipping and tapeworm treatment could be carried out immediately in the Blue Tent, but vaccination against rabies is another matter altogether. To be vaccinated against rabies, a dog needs three injections on days 0, 7, and either day 21 or 28. Unvaccinated dogs need to be held for ten days to ensure they have not been exposed to rabies shortly before their arrival at the border. In addition, vaccinated pets (cats, dogs, and ferrets) need to have a rabies antibody titration test conducted in an EU-approved laboratory to ensure that the pet is adequately protected against contracting rabies.
The rabies vaccination requirements are the main barrier for pets entering EU countries. The animal has to receive all three doses of the vaccine and be quarantined for the vaccination period before being brought into most EU countries. Some countries have modified the rabies vaccination requirements. Still, this issue is a challenge for people who arrive at the border with limited resources and no adequate proof that their pet is vaccinated against rabies. (See a helpful document compiled by the International Fund for Animal Welfare on requirements by different countries addressing the conditions for people bringing their pets from Ukraine into an EU or other country.) Several countries will allow people to enter with their pets and address the health requirements after entry. But it would be prudent for any Ukrainian leaving Ukraine with a pet dog, cat, or ferret to keep their pets close and not permit their pets to interact with other animals or people.
While Jon has returned to the states, the work continues and we will continue to make sure no one is left behind.
“Huge thank you to Dr. Jon [Founder of Street Dog Coalition] and Dr. Maz without who none of this would be possible. You do so much good work. It’s safe to say you changed our lives (and many others).”