AlignCare Available at the SPCA’s Lipsey Veterinary Clinic

By: Melanie Rushforth, Vice President, Veterinary Services SPCA Serving Erie County

World Social Work Day falls on the third Tuesday in March and recognizes the hard work and dedication of social workers. Social work is a practice-based profession that promotes social change, development, cohesion, and the empowerment of people and communities. So, what does any of this have to do with animal welfare and our work here at the SPCA Serving Erie County? Read on!

Did you know that millions of pets do not receive adequate veterinary care because the costs are simply beyond a family’s ability to pay for it? The lack of access to care is the most significant animal welfare crisis affecting owned pets in the United States. The SPCA Serving Erie County is proud to be one of eight cities in the country to act as an AlignCare service provider. AlignCare was designed to “align” existing community resources and activities to improve access to veterinary care. Shelters and clinics, like the SPCA Serving Erie County, are critical in these alignments. AlignCare can reduce the number of pet surrenders to shelters because of medically treatable conditions.

The principle of AlignCare is that rather than building new veterinary practices, nonprofits, and other things, if we simply better align our current resources and activities from a community-based perspective, then we can do a better job reaching families. AlignCare was conceived as a One Health project. The basic idea is that in order to improve health outcomes for humans, we as service providers must factor in the animals, as well as the environment or ecosystem. Animals, the environment, and humans all intersect so if we want to do a better job of reaching animals, we must factor in the reality of the humans, as well as the ecosystem.

Using the One Health template, AlignCare has a direct focus on human reality through social work, veterinary social work specifically. Veterinary Social Work is an area of social work practice that attends to the human needs that arise in the intersection of veterinary medicine and social work practice.

The specialty of veterinary social work comprises four areas: Animal-Assisted Interventions, the link between human and animal violence, animal-related grief and bereavement, and compassion fatigue and conflict management.  Animal welfare’s primary focus has been to find homes for homeless pets. AlignCare helps the industry take its next big step in revolutionizing the status and well-being of companion animals by helping to keep pets in their homes and honoring the existing human-animal bond.

I serve as Veterinary Social Work Coordinator at the SPCA Serving Erie County. I have a background in human services and animal welfare, and it is my hope that introducing AlignCare to the community will bridge the gap among social service providers and assign a permanent placeholder for the family pet as a deserving recipient of available services and support. The psychological bond between humans and animals appears to have important health consequences, and data has indicated that pet ownership can be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic health problems. It is our goal at the Lipsey Veterinary Clinic at the SPCA Serving Erie County to serve pets and their families with compassionate high-quality care with the dignity that they all deserve.

The SPCA’s Lipsey Veterinary Clinic offers veterinary services for cats and dogs! To see all available services, please visit To make an appointment, please call 716-531-4700.