PetSmart Charities funds CSU study to improve veterinary care for Spanish-speaking pet owners

Dr. Danielle Frey (right) and CSU veterinary students engage with Spanish-speaking pet owners at the sixth annual Focus on Health Community Clinic in north Denver. Oct. 5, 2019.

In January, Colorado State University’s College of Liberal Arts received a grant of $354,450 from PetSmart Charities to embark on a multi-year interdisciplinary study to address linguistic and cultural barriers between veterinary professionals and Spanish-speaking companion animal owners.

Shannon Zeller, Spanish instructor and curriculum developer in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, is leading the study as its principal investigator in partnership with co-PI Dr. Danielle Frey, director of veterinary international and outreach student experiences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Five CSU students also will support the initiative: one graduate teaching assistant, one graduate research assistant and three veterinary students.

The PetSmart Charities grant will fund the project’s first phase, enabling the team to conduct a comprehensive language needs analysis alongside veterinary professionals in predominantly Spanish-speaking communities.

“At PetSmart Charities we believe every pet parent wants to provide the best care for their pets, and we want to help them access that care,” said Aimee Gilbreath, president of PetSmart Charities. “Language barriers shouldn’t stand between Spanish-speaking communities and veterinary care for their companions. We are proud to support the diverse communities in which we live and look forward to a future where language divides no longer limit access to veterinary care.”

Assessing needs, barriers

With an estimated 52 million Spanish speakers, the U.S. now has the largest population of Spanish-speaking residents of any nation where Spanish is not the majority language. And while many companies, organizations and government entities now offer communications, products and services bilingually, there remains a significant access gap to veterinary care among Spanish-speaking pet owners.

In June, Zeller and her team will partner with veterinary clinics and shelters along the Front Range to observe daily routines and communication among veterinarians, technicians, customer service representatives and Spanish-speaking clientele. 

The group will explore “how the communication takes place, where it takes place, where it stumbles and what we need to address that gap,” said Zeller.

Frey highlighted the initiative’s focus on understanding the words, phrases and communication types being used to exchange information, provide instructions, check for understanding and establish trust between veterinary professionals and companion animal owners.

Preparing future veterinarians

“Providing a communication pathway for veterinarians to interact with our country’s growing Spanish-speaking community will help create access to care for those families and their pets,” said Frey, who regularly guides DVM student groups on animal clinic and veterinary service-learning trips in communities in Denver and Baja California Sur, Mexico. “That’s what we’re building towards.”

For the past six years, Zeller and Frey have collaborated extensively through their respective roles at CSU to create Spanish for Veterinarians – an evidence-based educational program designed to prepare veterinary students to communicate more effectively with Spanish-speaking clients in professional settings.

They hope to secure funding for the study’s second phase, which would take key insights and findings from phase one to develop and deliver immersive, in-person and online Spanish language education opportunities for students across disciplines, at CSU and beyond.

About PetSmart Charities®

PetSmart Charities, Inc. is committed to finding lifelong, loving homes for all pets by supporting programs and thought leadership that bring people and pets together. Through its in-store adoption program in all PetSmart® stores across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, PetSmart Charities helps to find forever homes and families for nearly 600,000 shelter pets each year. PetSmart Charities also provides grant funding to nonprofits aligned with its mission. Each year, millions of generous PetSmart shoppers help pets in need by donating to PetSmart Charities using the PIN pads at checkout registers inside PetSmart stores. In turn, PetSmart Charities efficiently uses more than 90 cents of every dollar donated to fulfill its role as the leading funder of animal welfare in North America, granting more than $450 million since its inception in 1994. Independent from PetSmart Inc., PetSmart Charities is a 501(c)(3) organization that has received the Four-Star Rating from Charity Navigator, a third-party organization that reports on the effectiveness, accountability and transparency of nonprofits, for the past 17 years in a row – placing it among the top 1% of charities rated by this organization. To learn more visit www.petsmartcharities.org.

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