HSVMA Highlights Animal Welfare-Friendly Training

November 12, 2009

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) sponsored a poster presentation entitled "Animal Welfare-Friendly Surgery Training" during the recent international symposium on animal welfare hosted by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

The focus of the symposium, held at Michigan State University, was to discuss animal welfare in both veterinary medical education and research.

Veterinary faculty, veterinary representatives from government and nonprofit agencies, animal scientists and veterinary students from throughout the United States and abroad attended.

Is Humane Teaching Becoming the Norm?

Student at RAVS clinic
A veterinary student performs surgery during a HSVMA Field Services clinic.
Windi Wojdak, RVT/HSVMA

The poster, authored by HSVMA veterinary consultant Dr. Susan Krebsbach, highlighted veterinary surgical training methods used by various veterinary schools in the United States which involve only beneficial or neutral use of animals.

There was positive feedback from both veterinarians and veterinary students on the poster, indicating that there is clearly support for a move to more humane training methods.

Veterinary curricula have historically included harmful and terminal use of animals, but with growing ethical concerns, improved technology, and better collaboration with the animal protection community, these practices are being replaced by more humane training methods.

Now, more than 50 percent of the veterinary schools in the United States have eliminated terminal surgeries from their core curricula.

HSVMA Poster Highlights Various Models

The six different training methods highlighted in the HSVMA poster include:

  • Spay/Neuter Programs: Most veterinary schools now partner with local animal shelters and rescue groups to offer spay and neuter program that provide surgery training for veterinary students and sterilization services for animals who are returned for adoption.
  • Feral Cat Clinics: Feral cat clinics are a variation on the spay/neuter programs outlined above. Feral cats are either brought to the veterinary school by their caretakers or the veterinary school partners with a local rescue group to coordinate a feral cat clinic off-site.
  • Surgical Treatment Programs: Some veterinary schools are developing expanded surgical training programs that offer procedures beyond sterilization surgeries for shelter and rescue animals. Those might include such procedures as fracture repair, limb amputation, wound repair, object removal and eye enucleation. The students assist with the surgeries, or perform the procedures under close supervision from faculty members, and the animals are returned to the shelter or rescue group for adoption.
  • Field Service Opportunities: Field service work, either arranged by the student or through formal externship programs, is an effective way for veterinary students to obtain hands-on clinical and surgical training while also helping animals in a positive way.
  • Ethical-Source Cadavers (Willed Body Donation Programs): Anatomy (either basic or as a supplement to surgery) can be taught using ethically-sourced cadavers. The cadavers are donated by caregivers, either through the school's veterinary teaching hospital or area veterinary clinics, and then preserved for use in instruction.
  • Models, Mannikins and Simulators: Models and mannikins allow veterinary students to practice and refine skills and techniques before working with live animals. These tools facilitate training in animal handling, blood sampling, intubation, CPR techniques and some surgical skills.

In conjunction with the poster presentation, HSVMA distributed "Animal Welfare-Friendly Surgery Training," a handout that provides more supplemental material, including examples of each surgery training method, and "Surgery Basics", a general guide to spay/neuter procedures.