DADE CITY — A new veterinarian association promises networking will translate into better care for local pets and their human companions.
Officially launched in February, the 20 member-strong Pasco Hernando Veterinary Medical Association meets once a month for industry chitchat and lectures on the latest developments in the field.
The group is one of the first for veterinarians in the area.
"They filled a void. That was greatly needed for that area," said Phil Hinkle, executive director of the Florida Veterinary Medical Association, which oversees the Pasco Hernando group.
"You can't practice like you're an island," said Jennifer Chatfield, a Dade City relief veterinarian and president of the new association.
Chatfield started the Pasco Hernando group late last year with Terry Spencer, a veterinarian with the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, and Jo Ann Daniels of Central Pasco Veterinary Care in Lutz.
In addition to networking, member veterinarians receive training from specialists in various components of animal care, including cardiology, infectious diseases and vaccine changes.
"It's not every day you get an opportunity to speak to these specialists," said Daniels, the group's vice president. "It's a great way of keeping current."
Diana Mattox, owner of the San Antonio Animal Hospital and charter member of the new association, said a lecture on the latest in animal cardiology helped her better treat a small dog with heart problems.
"We were able to tailor the care a little more appropriately," she said.
Association members say their organization is also dedicated to helping humans. They are partnering up with the local health department under the notion that, as Chatfield puts it, "healthy animals leads to healthy people."
The connection could be literal. Pet owners with compromised immune systems could be in danger if their pet has parasites, members said.
Or the link could be less tangible.
Chatfield cited the recent example of the Tampa student who was assaulted in the school locker room by his classmates.
Teaching young children how to care for animals is a way of conveying the importance of respect, patience and compassion toward their pets and peers.
"One way that you effectively teach small humans about empathy is with small animals," Chatfield said.
Association members say a tight network will help local veterinarians better prepare in the event of an infectious disease outbreak or a hurricane.
In December, when the county suffered from an outbreak of distemper, a potentially deadly yet preventable disease, association members participated in outreach efforts to vaccinate animals in affected areas.
For new Florida residents, especially those from cooler climates, the group has created fliers stressing the importance of not leaving animals in a hot car. The fliers also explain that the tropical environment means heartworms and fleas are a problem year-round.
The fliers are available at area chambers of commerce.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7312.