Michigan State Ends Terminal Surgeries on Dogs

March 5, 2010

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association applauds Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine's decision to eliminate terminal surgeries on dogs beginning next fall.

A faculty member at Michigan State explained in media reports that the school will use other training methods and tools, such as surgical models and cadavers, to train veterinary students. The school reported that 144 dogs died as a result of terminal surgical procedures during the current academic year and that all of those animals had been bred for research or education (as opposed to coming from animal shelters or other sources).

"This is a very positive move for both the animals and the veterinary students at Michigan State," said Dr. Susan Krebsbach, an HSVMA veterinary consultant. "Having to euthanize an animal for the purpose of veterinary training can be very traumatic and stressful for many students who go into the field of veterinary medicine because of their concern for animal welfare."

Dr. Krebsbach added that the Michigan State announcement is in line with the recent trend at U.S. schools of veterinary medicine to move towards a more humane veterinary curriculum that does not involve any harmful or terminal procedures on animals. Fewer than 10 of the 28 veterinary schools in the United States still include terminal procedures in their core surgical training, according to information provided by faculty and veterinary students.

Fred Tucker, a fourth-year veterinary student at Michigan State, also welcomed the news. "I am grateful that Michigan State University's College of Veterinary Medicine has chosen to end the practice of terminal surgery as a part of their core curriculum," said Tucker. "I am thankful that future generations of veterinary students will no longer face opposition when refusing to take the life of an otherwise healthy animal. And above all, I am hopeful that this is merely the beginning of strides towards ethical progress in education, heightened compassion in veterinary medicine, and a general reduction in animal suffering as a part of training the veterinary professional in Michigan."


  • HSVMA has worked with veterinary students at several schools in recent years, such as Oklahoma State and Washington State universities, to push for an end to terminal surgeries and to advocate for the continued use of live animals in ways that benefit both the animals and the students. For example, many veterinary schools now work with local animal shelters and rescue groups to provide spay/neuter surgeries and other medical treatment for animals in need. Surgical models and cadavers are other options for humane veterinary training.
  • It is unclear whether the Michigan State announcement applies only to the small animal surgical training program or whether they are also planning to eliminate terminal surgeries in large animal surgical training, which typically involves pigs, cattle, horses and other large animals.
  • HSVMA will be sponsoring a presentation on this topic, entitled "Animal Welfare-Friendly Surgery Training," at the upcoming Student American Veterinary Medical Association Symposium for veterinary students in Madison, Wis. on March 12. Dr. Krebsbach will highlight several examples of schools that have made the transition away from terminal procedures during this presentation.