Maddie's Fund

UT’s College of Social Work has received a $391,420 grant to study the barriers of national veterinary care for the first time.

Maddie’s Fund, a family foundation, was created in 1994 by Dave Duffield and his wife, Cheryl Duffield, in memory of their dog Maddie. Duffield and his wife have endowed the foundation with more than $300 million, awarding more than $208.9 million in grants.

“Maddie’s Fund is the fulfillment of a promise to an inspirational dog, investing its resources to create a no-kill nation where every dog and cat is guaranteed a healthy home or habitat,” the Maddie’s Fund website wrote.

Studies performed in 2015 showed that an estimated 23 million pets lived in homes that relied on Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), a food stamp program. Pets in SNAP homes often do not have access to preventive or sick veterinary care, which can lead to abandonment and death, including economic euthanasia.

“Working with the Access to Veterinary Care Coalition (AVCC), the Center for Applied Research and Evaluation, a unit with the University of Tennessee’s College of Social Work Office of Research and Public Service, will collect and analyze data that will serve as the underpinning of this research study,” Michael Blackwell, AVCC chairman, veterinarian and former dean for the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, said.

The Program for Pet Health Equity (PPHE) in UT’s College of Social Work will use the grant to study their vision — access to veterinary care for all pets, regardless of household income.

“PPHE in collaboration with strategic partners, fosters, promotes and facilitates national collaboration and public policy development to remove barriers to veterinary care for all pets,” Blackwell said.

By December 2018, a seminal report will be published describing the work of the grant. Blackwell said the report will “promote dialogue and facilitate collaborations among key stakeholder groups, drive innovations in the delivery of veterinary services, guide development of laws that ensure access to veterinary care for all pets, establish a university-based Access to Veterinary Care Program and encourage and mentor future animal welfare leaders.”

“This project is going to develop strategies for improving access to veterinary care, which will lead to improving the health and welfare of millions of dogs and cats all over the United States,” Shelia D’Arpino, director of Maddie’s Fund research, said in a statement.

The grant is the product of an extensive line of collaborative efforts between the College of Social Work and veterinary research.

“The UT College of Social Work has a long history of collaborative work both with the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and with agencies that serve social service needs related to human and animal interactions and issues,” Blackwell said.

Elizabeth Strand, founding director of Veterinary Social Work (VSW) at UT College of Veterinary Medicine, brought VSW to UT in 2002. The discipline focuses on issues such as animal assisted intervention, animal grief and links between human and animal violence.

UT’s College of Social Work sees the grant as one step closer towards being a leader in the veterinary care research field.

“The UT community should have great pride in knowing that this grant further establishes UT as a leading institution and voice for undeserved families in America, ultimately helping to transform how our nation views and addresses the need to support families with pet that do not have access to veterinary care,” Blackwell said.

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