Travel may be on scheduled flights with regular commercial airlines, such as Alaska Air, to hub cities, such as Bethel, Barrow, Nome, etc., and from those points, on small commuter flights. ARVO will pay the air fare or assume responsibility for getting it paid for or donated. Veterinarians, technicians and volunteers are responsible for their own transportation to and from the departing and arriving major airports.
How long will I be gone?
This will vary from clinic to clinic, depending on location, number of surgeries and participating vets and techs, and available air transportation. For some remote locations, it is important to be prepared for possible weather delays. For planning purposes, we guesstimate a door-to-door timeframe of 3 to 5 days.
Insurance and liability
ARVO does not have a general liability insurance policy. All participating veterinarians must provide a copy of their own insurance and professional license. Pet owners must sign an extensive release of liability when registering.
At this time, ARVO uses injectable anesthesia. We endorse generous pain management. Although many vets are accustomed to gas machines, all of the vets who have participated in ARVO clinics became comfortable with injectable anesthesia and recognized its advantages in a rural setting. The actual drug protocol to be used is determined by the lead vet for each clinic, and may vary from vet to vet, clinic to clinic. The medical team also selects the type of suture to be used. Medical records are kept for all animals treated.
Field protocols - standards of care
ARVO has developed a draft set of Field Protocols, based on HSUS RAVS protocols and adapted for Alaska where appropriate. They have been reviewed by several Alaska-licensed veterinarians, including State Veterinarian Dr. Robert Gerlach. Each participating vet will be given a copy of these protocols in advance to read and sign off that they understand and agree to abide by them. A copy or proof of current Alaska veterinary license is also required.
Overnight accommodations will vary from clinic to clinic, and might include anything from bed and breakfast type lodging, to sleeping on mats in the gym or sleeping bags in other community facilities. Lodging costs (not including food) are expected to be donated or paid for by the village.
What to bring?
Travel as light as possible yet bring the essentials. .. appropriate clothing and personal items. ARVO will bring basic food items but we invite participants to bring some items for themselves, such as protein bars, etc.
What kind of facility will be used?
The clinic will most likely be in a community hall, school, or other public building that has heat, lights, running water, bathroom facility, room for two surgery stations, and ample room for recovery on the floor.
How many animals and what type?
The majority of animals will be dogs, and can consist of puppies, adult dogs, large, small, male, female, pregnant, in heat, young, old, overweight or underweight. Clinics have ranged in size from 20 animals to 100 (including non-surgical pets). All animals will be carefully examined to assure they are appropriate candidates for surgery. Late term pregnancies and other high risk conditions may be declined at the discretion of the veterinarian.
How experienced or fast should I be?
The most important criteria is performing safe, effective, humane, and high quality services. However, it is important for vets and techs to be knowledgeable about spay-neuters, and be able to deal confidently with some of the challenges that can arise unexpectedly in any invasive surgery. While speed is not necessarily the most important factor, strive to safely sterilize as many animals as the village presents to us so that the overall outcome of the clinic is successful. There may be many additional animals that come to the clinic for non-surgical services, particularly rabies, vaccines, deworming, etc.
How do the animals recover?
Recovery takes place on the floor, on mats if possible or blankets. Animals are kept warm in blankets, may have some form of external heating source (hot water bottle, heating pad, etc.) or cold packs to reduce initial swelling, and will be given generous pain management on site. Although pet owners are not allowed in the immediate surgery area, they may be with their recovering animal at the discretion of the veterinarian. This can encourage a more peaceful and comfortable recovery.
What kind of after-care will the animals get?
To the extent possible, spays will be done first, giving more time to follow their immediate recovery. All animals will be sent home with a thorough instruction sheet, and pain medications and antibiotics as recommended by the veterinarian. E-collars will be available. The instruction sheet will have a contact number to call with questions or problems.
What if something goes wrong after we leave the village?
Pet owners may call ARVO for advice, and we will immediately contact the attending veterinarian. Owners may email pictures of any problem incisions if they have that ability. Although logistically difficult and possibly expensive, for critical situations, animals may be flown to a full-service clinic.
Will vets and techs get paid?
ARVO is an all-volunteer organization. Services by all participants are on a volunteer basis. Approved direct expenses will be paid or reimbursed.
Will pet owners pay a fee?
A fee schedule has been established. However, many rural pet owners are unable to pay and are asked to make whatever cash payment they can afford, as well as help out at the clinic (such as helping to clean up the facility, transport animals, etc.) Additionally, ARVO seeks funding from local organizations such as the City or Tribal Council. Because ARVO’s goal is to make the largest possible impact, we work hard not to turn animals away for anything other than medical reasons.
What services in addition to spay-neuter will we provide?
Services include: Spay neuter - rabies and core vaccines - deworming - euthanasia (for quality of life, age, illness) - and smaller procedures that do not require the resources or follow-up care of a full-service clinic (for example, a small tumor was removed from one dog and sent off to a lab.) Providing these services will be at the discretion of the veterinarian.
Will ARVO rescue dogs if asked to do so by village residents?
ARVO is not a rescue group, and makes every effort to connect rural animals looking for a new home with dedicated rescue groups. Having said that, we rarely come home from a clinic without at least one critter on board who needs our help or referral. It is certainly a “hands-on” and heart-warming reminder of the importance of rural veterinary services.