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Purr-fect internship: OHIO pre-vet junior spends summer at animal clinic

Ohio University junior Jess Mitchell had a tail-wagging good time this summer interning at an animal shelter clinic in Pennsylvania. 

The experience in the shelter was an ample opportunity for Mitchell, a biological sciences pre-veterinary major in the College of Arts and Sciences with a minor in applied nutrition and a diabetes certificate from College of Health Sciences and Professions, who wants to eventually work in shelter medicine. 

Mitchell spent 12 weeks working and living on-site at Animal Care Sanctuary (ACS) in East Smithfield, Penn., one of the biggest and oldest no-kill shelters in the United States. In 2022, ACS reported having 831 adoptions, 6,873 clinic visits and 4,065 spay and neuter surgeries. 

“There is no typical day at ACS. Not a day has gone by where I haven’t learned something new and unexpected,” Mitchell said. “As someone who wants to one day become a shelter veterinarian, this internship is one of the most valuable experiences I can have. Shelter medicine is an incredibly versatile form of veterinary medicine because we do it all.” 

Watch a day in her life 

Her internship was divided up into three different focus areas of the sanctuary – spending six weeks in the vet clinic, three weeks in the kennel and three weeks in the cattery. 

While in the vet clinic, Mitchell helped prep pets for surgery and was able to observe surgeries, which ranged from amputations, entropions (around the eye), enucleations (eye removal) and foreign body removals. Within four weeks of her internship, Mitchell had already been a part of 300 surgeries.  

“In the clinic, I learned exactly what goes into high quality high volume spay neuter operations,” she said. “I learned how to prepare an animal for surgery, intubate them, place IV catheters, draw blood, administer vaccines, microchips, and flea treatments, among many other things. On select days, the clinic also hosts community clinics where I assisted in wellness and sick visits.”

In the cattery, she helped take care of over 160 cats that ACS houses. From administering medications and vaccines to cleaning up the space, Mitchell ensured the cats were well taken care of.

“I learned a lot about herd health and disease management. There are a lot of precautions and protocols that need to be upheld when dealing with the constant in and out flow of 160 cats,” she said. 

While working in the kennel, Mitchell gained experience cleaning out the indoor and outdoor runs for the dogs, feeding them their meals, administering their medications, walking the dogs and more. 

“Getting these different experiences has helped me to gain a full perspective on what it takes to run a shelter. I also learned about the nonprofit responsibility to serve one’s community, and I saw this reflected throughout every rotation I was in,” Mitchell said. “Whether it be taking in a community surrender, helping a hoarder or providing low-cost veterinary care, Animal Care Sanctuary works to provide for the community daily.” 

Jess Mitchell holding a puppy in an office setting
“OHIO gave me the opportunity and platform to become a competitive candidate for this internship.” — Jess Mitchell

Since Mitchell lived at ACS, she also was on-call for emergencies, assisting the full-time veterinary technician who also lives on-site. While Mitchell did not have to assist on every emergency call, she tried to tag along and soak in as much experience at the clinic that she could. 

In her down time, she was still learning important skills in training and care with her foster dog, Stormy. 

While Mitchell learned many lessons throughout her internship, one moment solidified further for her that this was the type of work she wanted to do. 

“Towards the beginning of my internship, I helped unload a transport of puppies from Best Friends Animal Society in Georgia. The puppy who I happened to grab, Grinch, was severely infected with mange. He needed immediate treatment, as he was more skin than fur. I carried this poor, shaking puppy into his new home,” she recalled. “Fast forward a month later, during my kennel rotation, I was lucky enough to be the one to bring Grinch to his new adopter. I will never forget carrying him out the same doors I carried him in a month prior. Except this time, he was full of life – and fur – and was more than ready for his journey ahead. Watching a dog go from scared, emaciated and sick, to happy, cured and adopted, is unforgettable.” 

Mitchell aims to go on to veterinary school after she graduates in 2025. In the meantime, she is ensuring she gains as much experience as possible with campus activities and organizations that align with her career goals.

She is a part of several animal-focused organizations, including Bobcats of the Shelter Dogs, Pre-veterinary Medicine Club and All 9 Lives. She is also president of the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honors Society, president of Phone a Friend, a Learning Community Leader, a lab assistant in two research labs and a peer led tutoring lessons leader for BIOS 1700. 

Mitchell credits her varied experiential learning and campus experiences at OHIO in preparing her to be ready and well qualified for the internship at ACS. 

“OHIO gave me the opportunity and platform to become a competitive candidate for this internship. There was a 3 percent acceptance rate for this position, and I was lucky enough to secure a spot,” she said. “I had a diverse resume with the experience to back it up, all which I gained at OU through the support of my wonderful professors, advisors and peers.” 

August 24, 2023
Jalyn Bolyard