Getting To Know Dr. Miranda Spindel
In the coming year, we’ll be reserving this space every month to introduce you to ASPCA experts whose work saves shelter animals’ lives. First up, meet Miranda Spindel, DVM, MS, Director of Veterinary Outreach. Dr. Spindel talks about serving on the task force for a groundbreaking project in our field – the Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, released this month by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians.
Dr. Spindel: I work in the department of Veterinary Outreach, along with two other amazing veterinarians, Dr. Lila Miller and Dr. Kathleen Makolinski. The department provides information, support, outreach and consult to veterinary professionals, communities and shelter staff on all aspects of shelter medicine. Although there is often overlap in what we do, Dr. Miller focuses efforts on anti-cruelty, Dr. Makolinski specializes in spay/neuter issues, and I work primarily with shelter health/wellness and infectious disease issues.
Shelters’ Edge: So, is vet school as hard as they say?
Dr. Spindel: Four years sounds like a long time, but vet school went by in such a blur! It is definitely hard to get in to vet school. Once there, I’d say the actual intensity required is good preparation for the professional experience of being a successful veterinarian.
Shelters’ Edge: What are some of the services you offer to shelters around the country?
Dr. Spindel: Veterinary outreach members speak frequently at veterinary colleges, conferences, and continuing education events for shelter staff and volunteers. Education and outreach are part of our everyday mission. We regularly consult with shelters that have questions or are experiencing particular issues, like how to prevent or manage an infectious disease outbreak. Veterinary Outreach also works closely with programs like the ASPCA Partnership and the Mobile Spay/Neuter Program, where we not only provide a service, but also work together with shelters and their communities to discover effective ways to save more animals’ lives.
Shelters’ Edge: What has been the most rewarding experience you’ve had at the ASPCA?
Dr. Spindel: That’s hard to answer! I love my job, and have had so many great experiences, encounters and opportunities at the ASPCA! I really enjoy working with the ASPCA Partnership communities – from the first baseline assessment where we visit the shelter in a small team and spend time with the staff to learn about their operations, to the phone calls, emails and meetings that follow through the years. Shelter medicine is still such a new field and there is so much to learn about what works and what doesn’t work. The opportunity to introduce changes and then gather data over several years to actually evaluate effect is pretty unique!
Dr. Spindel: If I had to pick a single thing, it would be vaccination of all animals on intake (per accepted shelter standards). This seemingly small and relatively inexpensive medical step can be lifesaving for an individual animal and can limit widespread infectious disease.
Shelters’ Edge: Congratulations on the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters! Can you tell us a little about them?
Dr. Spindel: This is such a milestone project for all of us! The ASV Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters is a white paper that highlights best and unacceptable practices as well as minimum standards of care in animal shelters. Although there are papers that outline standards for care of animals in laboratories, kennels, zoos and other settings, this is really the first time animal shelter care has been specifically addressed, and it is a very exciting landmark for our field!
The paper is the result of several years of research and writing by a task force of the ASV consisting of 14 veterinarians with extensive shelter expertise – including direct work in shelters, academia, national organizations, municipal sheltering, and work in the private sector. The goal of the guidelines is to provide information that will help any shelter, regardless of resources, philosophy or mission (so a foster home, a municipal agency, a sanctuary, etc.), meet the physical, medical, and behavioral needs of the animals they care for.
The document is based on well-established principles known as the “Five Freedoms” that essentially speak to needs of animals remaining constant regardless of where they are kept. These principles were originally developed in 1965 by the Brambell Commission in the UK to guide the care of farm animals, but they are equally applicable to companion animals.
Shelters’ Edge: Any advice or suggestions for our readers as they take their first look at the guidelines?
Dr. Spindel: The guidelines may seem overwhelming at first. I would encourage readers to glance over the document, and then later go back and read one section at a time more thoroughly (there are twelve sections) with an open mind. Pay attention to the use of words like “Must,” “Should,” and “Ideally,” which have been carefully selected by the authors.
The information is meant to be achievable, practical, and relevant to every reader and intended as a tool for communities and shelters to self-improve. Rather than dismissing a particular idea or recommendation as not applicable to one’s own work, try to focus on what action steps toward positive change for the animals in your care seem possible. The real merit of having written standards of care lies in what we, as the animal sheltering community, now actually do with them.
Feel free to type any questions in the comment box, and get your copy of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters here.Related links:
Association of Shelter Veterinarians
“Shelter Veterinary Medicine,” by Dr. Lila Miller
Webinar with Dr. Spindel: Infection Control—Understanding Those Valuable Vaccines
Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters