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Got Microscopes? A Project V.E.T.S. update

(Using equipment donated by US practices, veterinary staff operate on a chimpanzee at the Lwiro Primate Rehabilitation Center in Cameroon. Photo courtesy of Project V.E.T.S.)

“We did really well at the beginning of COVID,” said Meghan Curtis, Executive Director of Project V.E.T.S. “People were really very generous. And then it kind of tapered off.”  

A Boulder, Colorado-based nonprofit, Project V.E.T.S. collects donated veterinary equipment, technology, and supplies (hence the acronym V.E.T.S.) from veterinary hospitals and colleges, human hospitals, medical equipment and supply manufacturers, other nonprofits, and individuals. They redistribute these donations globally to 92 nonprofits devoted to animal health. Most of them are in third-world countries.  

Founded in 2009 on the principle of sustainability “recycle and reuse,” Project V.E.T.S. lets nothing go to waste. “Every single thing we get [donated] would otherwise have been thrown away,” Curtis said. “Everything that goes through us, we’re donating to another group. 99% of stuff goes right out the door.” 

Project V.E.T.S. accepts financial donations as well. They have to in order to keep their own doors open; this year their operating budget is $154,000. Hospitals and individuals can write off their donations.  

Curtis told NEWStat she suspects equipment donations dropped off in those early, pre-curbside days of the pandemic because practices, uncertain of what the future held for the veterinary medicine, decided to hang on to equipment they’d have otherwise donated “just in case.” 

Once it became apparent that veterinary medicine would thrive during COVID, the donations picked up again.  

Curtis said their biggest need right now is for financial donations.  “But in terms of supplies?” She thinks for a moment, then says, “Gloves. That’s something we really need right now.”   

At the beginning of the pandemic, they were ordered to turn in about half of all the PPE donations they’d received to Boulder County Public Health for use in human health care. Why not all of it?  “We don’t buy new and so a lot of what we had was expired,” Curtis said. But as it turned out, Boulder County didn’t even need the half they got: “They ended up giving a lot of it back us.”  

That said, PPE is still in short supply among their groups and gloves are high on the list. “So, if we can provide it to them free, all the better.”  

What else is in short supply? “We’re always, always in need of small equipment like microscopes and ophthalmoscopes,” Curtis said. “Smaller equipment that’s not super heavy and is easy to ship.”   

Microscopes are especially prized. “We tell our groups, ’If you have a specific piece of equipment that you need, tell us and we put you on a wait list.’ And if we get a bunch of microscopes in, we basically triage. We just go down the list in order and ship them a microscope.”  

“We tell every group, ‘Don’t buy a piece of equipment without contacting us. Reach out to us because we never know what we’re going to get,’” Curtis added.  “’If you have an urgent need, ask us first, but don’t count on us because you may need to buy it on your own. But if you can wait, it’s definitely better to do so because you’ll get it for free.’”  

Although Project V.E.T.S. ships supplies to practices all over the world, Curtis said geography doesn’t reflect need. That’s based more on the mission of the group versus the part of the world. “A group that works with companion animals in India on a Trap-Neuter-Return program for feral cats has different needs than a group working with free-roaming elephants in Africa.”  

Curtis is currently working with AAHA to provide some of the veterinary supplies needed for a couple of anesthesia workshops at Connexity 2021 in Scottsdale later this Month. Any supplies AAHA doesn’t use will go back to Project V.E.T.S. for distribution.  

Curtis is delighted at the exposure Connexity will give them. “We’ve never done anything like this. It’s exciting.”   

Curtis oversees a part-time staff of three and a dozen volunteers, including Connexity speaker Josh Vaisman, cofounder and lead consultant at Flourish Veterinary Consulting in Boulder, who also serves on Project V.E.T.S a volunteer Board of Directors.  

Their slogan is ‘Saving the planet or an animal at a time,’”, Vaisman told NEWStat, “But it really does feel like we’re benefitting animals and humans, too.” 

Vaisman is a big fan of Project V.E.T.’s focus on sustainability “It’s keeping those supplies out of landfills.” 

He remembers working in practice: “We might have a box of syringes that would expire and we couldn’t use them, so now you’re just talking a bunch of plastic in the trash.” But he said that an organization in Guatemala or in the Congo that’s doing work to help animals could care less if the syringes are expired: “They just need syringes. And to be able to send them stuff like that means you’re serving the environment as well as the animals.”  

Syringes are always good to get, Curtis agreed. But she’s  not particular--at one point a couple of years ago, Project V.E.T.S. was getting in a lot of endotracheal tubes, but right now they’ll take anything.  

So If you don’t need it, donate it.  

Curtis said it doesn’t matter what it is: “Many of our groups treats so many different animals that pretty much every supply has a purpose and value.”  

Find out more about donating to Project V.E.T.S. here. 

 

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