What’s life like as a shelter vet? Meet Dr. Mary Manspeaker!

What’s life like as a shelter vet? Meet Dr. Mary Manspeaker!

In the fall of 2019, Mary Manspeaker, D.V.M, joined the team at the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County. She brings with her years of veterinary experience, specifically with injured, abused and neglected animals in shelter situations. This is especially helpful as we work to rehabilitate animals, shortening their suffering and expediting how quickly we can place them with their forever family. 

We sat down with Dr. Manspeaker and asked her about being a shelter vet and the path she took to her current role. Learn more about her through this Q&A!

How did you end up in the veterinary profession?

My whole life, I’ve been around animals. We always had dogs, cats, birds and fish in the household. I was always drawn to them, even as a little girl. I used to dream of working in a zoo, as a lot of children do. This love followed me into college. I was always trying to rescue and adopt animals. When I graduated from undergrad, I still had the dream of becoming a veterinarian, but I didn’t go to vet school right away. I worked in the human medical industry for eight years at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital while working part time at a veterinary clinic. That’s when I really became exposed to the veterinary industry. I ended up going to vet school after that and never looked back. It was really where I was always meant to be. 

How did you get into shelter veterinary medicine?

I spent the first 10 years as a small-animal private practitioner doing relief work as a per diem vet. During that time, the ASPCA had a temporary emergency shelter set up near where I lived to house 700 cats they rescued from a hoarding situation. They needed vets to help them care for those cats. I went over several times a week while the cruelty case was pending. That was my first introduction into shelter medicine. After that, I pursued a graduate certificate in shelter medicine at the University of Florida. I really fell in love with the shelter medicine, and worked for four years with the ASPCA on cruelty cases across the country. 

People are familiar with private practice veterinarians, but the work you do at the Humane Society as a shelter vet is different. What is different about being a shelter vet?

Being a shelter vet is very different from being a private practitioner. One of the biggest differences is that you’re caring for an entire herd of animals. You have to implement herd health, focusing on vaccinations and other preventative medicine. Because the shelter is not like a home setting, you also have to focus on enrichment activities. You have to think about their mental health and making sure you’re giving strong individual care as well as herd care. I also have to learn to recognize and report animal cruelty. When we provide support to animals in the community, we’re taking in animals on a temporary basis to provide treatment. I have to be able to identify the signs of abuse and neglect and report those if necessary. 

Why is the Humane Society’s work vital to community health – both for animals and people?

We have a great need in this community to provide affordable services to families. Part of that is reflected by the high intake rate at area shelters. We’ve just now started a program to try to help provide low-cost spay/neuter services to families on government assistance. Every Wednesday, two rescue groups bring pets to us, and we spay and neuter the pets. Then, the same rescue groups pick them up and bring them back home. This program is in its early stages, and we hope it can grow. We’re hoping that, by providing spay/neuter services to families who could not otherwise afford it, we’re going to help reduce the number of homeless animals in the community that end up in our shelters. 

The Humane Society, being a limited intake shelter, is able to take the animals we feel are the most in-need of help and fit within our mission. We provide care to neglected, sick and injured pets in the community. Our primary focus is to provide a safe shelter, rehabilitating animals in need to then find them a home.

Why is it so exciting that we’ve added Dr. Manspeaker to our staff? Previously, we did not have a full-time veterinarian. We relied on part-time contract veterinarians to perform essential, lifesaving and rehabilitative procedures on our animals. While this model worked, and we are extremely grateful for the thousands of hours our volunteer vets put in to the Humane Society, we weren’t able to support as many animals as we wanted. Now, with Dr. Manspeaker in the clinic full time, she can see more animals, monitor progress on a regular basis, and ultimately help our residents recover as quickly as possible! 

To do her job to the fullest extent, Dr. Manspeaker needs equipment, medicines and materials – which are added costs for the Humane Society. We’re a community-funded nonprofit organization, meaning we rely on generous donors like you to support our mission! Will you consider supporting our new veterinarian, Dr. Mary Manspeaker, and the lifesaving procedures she performs on a daily basis at the Humane Society?

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