Face of the Movement: Adam Corbett, DVMComments Off on Face of the Movement: Adam Corbett, DVM
Adam Corbett, DVM, always wanted to be a veterinarian. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2007 and is now head of surgery at the Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA). A vocal supporter of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), Dr. Corbett collaborates with Alley Cat Allies to advocate for policies that support this humane and effective program.
Q. How did you become so involved with Trap-Neuter-Return?
A. As a shelter veterinarian, and especially spay/neuter surgeon, TNR is part of my everyday life. Spay/neuter programs have long worked to help not just indoor pets and their owners, but also community cats and their caregivers. We understand that pet cats, shelter cats, and feral cats are a fluid and connected population, and we must address all these sub-populations. In all the spay/neuter clinics I’ve worked with, feral cat caregivers have been a significant portion of our clientele.
I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with the people and cats that make up a thriving TNR community, and I’ve spent a lot of time educating myself on the best way that we can address the health of our dog and cat populations and allow shelters to be as effective as possible.
As organizations and municipalities look to figure out ways to best address feral cats, it’s important that those of us who are most familiar with these issues speak up. My veterinary background can sometimes bring a different perspective to those looking to understand this issue. The Pennsylvania SPCA is not only a shelter and humane law enforcement organization, but also an advocate for animals. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to use the knowledge I have about TNR and my position with the PSPCA to speak up for cats and TNR programs.
Q. A veterinarian’s involvement can make or break a TNR program—what would you say to veterinarians who are on the fence about getting involved?
A. I’d remind them of why we all became veterinarians in the first place: to help animals and the people who care for them. We can participate in reducing the number of cats in shelters, finding homes, improving the lives of outdoor cats, and saving lives. For veterinarians interested in improving their skills and knowledge, I’d remind them of how often surgeons involved with TNR programs are at the forefront of new medical and surgical techniques. Multimodal anesthesia/analgesia (smaller doses of multiple drugs to induce sedation and pain control) is a technique long favored by spay/neuter and TNR clinics, and is now considered the best quality of care. Many safer, faster, more effective surgical skills have been developed in the pursuit of helping to efficiently alter more animals. Finally, I’d remind them of the benefits to our community at large. Strong TNR programs lead to healthier cat populations for everyone in our community, including our own pets. When we help out TNR programs, we’re contributing to good health practices for people and animals.
Q. Tell me about a cat whose story has stuck with you. Feel free to share more than one story!
A. I think one of the stories that really impacted me was that of Prince. He was an old black cat found by a TNR participant and brought into the shelter. Unlike most adult cats in this program, he was not feral and was very friendly. After we diagnosed him with diabetes, we decided to find him an indoor home since he needed special care.
I reached out to an organization in New York that had been very effective at organizing “Seniors for Seniors” programs, and they brought him to an event where he was adopted by a wonderful woman who had dealt with diabetes with her late husband, and was thrilled to adopt Prince and care for him. She kept in touch, sending us pictures of Prince at the holidays, and even a lovely note when he passed away a couple years later.
Prince had such a wonderful ending to what was initially such a challenging beginning. As a spay/neuter vet, I don’t often get to follow my cases through. I see my patients once, usually, on what may be the most stressful day of their lives. But I know that I’m helping their lives from that point out. Sometimes, something special will stick out—an injured outdoor cat who gets a tail amputation and will be placed in a good home. A cat found with a microchip reunited with her owner. A litter of kittens being given funny names and going into foster care with a family whose kids are learning how they can help. But mostly, I know I’m helping in ways I’ll never be able to see or tell stories about.
Q. What do you hope to see in the future of the Trap-Neuter-Return-Movement as more municipalities and more veterinarians get on board?
A. What I’d really like to see is a more collaborative, holistic way of addressing the issue. We’re more effective when we all work together. I feel like in the past, veterinarians were sort of detached from shelters, and animal control didn’t work with rescues, and advocacy groups didn’t necessarily connect with the people on the street. More and more, I see groups and individuals working together to figure out the best solutions. We all have our part to play in helping cats. I know I’m not going to be the best person to go out trapping, but hopefully I can get the surgeries done as quickly and safely as possible. Someone else might not be great at making sure legislation makes sense, but they’ll know how to reach out to the dedicated cat caregivers. I think as we all work together, more people will get involved, and TNR will become more known and better understood. Feral cat experts will be at the front lines of public health, and anyone who sees a cat outside will understand they have a resource they can go to, so they can learn and they can help. TNR should be the norm, not a mystery—I still have friends who know what I do, but call it “T&R!” As I correct them, I have to point out—you’re missing my whole part in this!
Q. Do you have any pets? Tell us about them!
A. As a veterinarian, I dread this question, because… no! People are horrified, but I feel very strongly that a good owner should be able to devote the right amount of time and energy to their pets. My work schedule and extracurricular activities (I perform in a lot of community theater) limit the time I spend at home. So I satisfy myself by working with wonderful animals all day long, and in being the favorite uncle of all my friends’ pets.
Thank you for your time, and for everything you do to help cats.
I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you. I’ve loved getting to work alongside Alley Cat Allies and learning more about the impact we can have outside of our shelters and our communities. I love that I’m working in a time when veterinarians really are part of this community. I know we have so much to offer, and I think vets, shelters, and advocates all can learn from each other. Working together we can accomplish so much more than we can separately.