The Association Blog

News, ideas & inspiration from industry leaders


Letter from the President: The Single Greatest Threat

October 3, 2023, Jim Tedford

The Association’s President & CEO asks for your help in solving animal welfare’s most timely, urgent issue

Dear Colleagues,

I believe the single greatest threat the animal welfare profession has ever faced is the lack of access to veterinary care. And that is no small statement, given the multitude of challenges our profession has experienced over the last 150 or so years.  In the early years of my career, pet overpopulation and public apathy combined into a perfect storm for animals across the US. And, in many communities those problems are still being battled on a daily basis. The shortage of veterinarians, the rising cost of vet care and inequities in access to care impact ALL animals and the people who care for them.

We know that private and public  animal welfare organizations are disproportionately impacted by access to care challenges. For clear evidence of this, one need only look to The Association’s Career Center, which is populated mostly by postings for veterinarians and veterinary support staff. How many of you, and how many of your colleagues in the field, have fully staffed veterinary teams?

Bottlenecks, not the least of which remains a backlog of spay/neuter surgeries, hinder adoptions –resulting in shelter crowding and unhappy pets and people. Even paperwork is slowing us down, not having veterinarians available to write health certificates required for life-saving transports from areas of high supply to areas with higher demand.  Underserved populations continue to be underserved as available appointments are taken by those with the ability to pay higher prices. The list goes on.

One of the most exciting developments in animal welfare over the past several years has been our collection and use of data. Gone are the days when we make decisions based purely on instinct. We have actual data to inform the decisions we make. 

We need to understand the breadth and depth of these challenges so we can work toward solutions.  Access to Care presents a major challenge to our field and to pet owners everywhere. Our profession has solved big problems before, and won’t stop until we have this one beaten as well.

To that end, we are thrilled to announce that The Association has partnered with The Program for Pet Health Equity at the University of Tennessee to conduct a research study on the impacts of access to care challenges on animal welfare organizations. 

Many of you in the animal welfare profession have received a link to participate in the study directly from the University of Tennessee. It’s a custom link that allows you to stop and start as needed, letting you share the study with members of your team.

For those of you who have received a link to the research study, I humbly ask you to complete it and submit your responses by October 27. And if you learn of colleagues who haven’t received a link—or if you are reading this and would like participate—please submit a request to The Program for Pet Health Equity.

 Many thanks,


Photo: SPCA of Wake County/Facebook

About Jim Tedford
Jim Tedford, CAWA, is President and CEO of The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement.

Leave a Reply