AVMA Welfare Focus Newsletter - Directors Corner - February 2012

Gail C. Golab, PhD, DVM, MANZCVS
Director, Animal Welfare Division

The polarized nature of discussions surrounding possible solutions to animal welfare challenges means that responsible input, from a fully informed and expert veterinary profession, is increasingly important. Any doubts about that? Just check out the web and social media traffic surrounding some of the issues identified in this month's feature article and legislative updates-geez! And — as veterinarians are becoming acutely aware — our professional education doesn't always include all the information we need about the science and the social politics behind these debates. Fortunately, the AVMA has actively embraced its responsibilities and our 2012-2015 Strategic Plan has identified animal welfare-related education as one of its objectives. Some ongoing and new projects appear to be getting us off to a good start.

Year 2011 ended on a very positive note via the AVMA's support of the veterinary division of the annual Animal Welfare Intercollegiate Judging and Assessment Contest (AWIJAC). This is the fifth year of the AVMA's collaboration with the Animal Welfare and Behavior Group at Michigan State University in offering this opportunity for veterinary students, and 40 veterinary students from 9 schools throughout the United States and Canada participated. For those of you not familiar with the contest, the AWIJAC encourages objective assessment of animal welfare on the basis of scientific theory and data, teaches ethical reasoning, promotes critical thinking, and improves communication skills. In addition to directly educating veterinary students, the contest has greatly assisted in bringing animal welfare-related information into the professional classroom. Veterinary and animal science faculty (who commonly serve as coaches for teams and individual students participating in the event) have begun to use this coaching opportunity as a springboard for the creation of animal welfare-specific courses within their curricula. While we're immensely proud of all of the teams and individuals who participated in this year's contest, it's my pleasure to congratulate the following institutions whose teams ranked 1st—University of Guelph, 2nd—Michigan State University, 3rd—Atlantic Veterinary College, 4th—Iowa State University and 5th—University of Illinois. Ms. Christie Ryan (University of Guelph), Ms. Hilary Esden (University of Guelph), Mr. Henri Rinehart (Michigan State University), Ms. Shannon French (University of Guelph), and Ms. Beth Noe (University of Illinois) placed 1 through 5 in the individual competitions, respectively. Kudos to all of you (and to your coaches)!

Because the best results tend to happen when you take the opportunity to address challenges from various angles, I would be remiss if I didn't bring you up-to-date on the activities of our Model Animal Welfare Curriculum Planning Group. The creation of this group was one outcome of the 2009 AVMA-AAVMC International Symposium on Animal Welfare in Veterinary Education and Research. The group comprises more than a dozen internationally recognized subject experts, and is charged with developing a plan to create a model curricular resource for the study of animal welfare in colleges of veterinary medicine. So far the group has drafted core competencies, identified topic areas for attention under those competencies, and has surveyed colleges of veterinary medicine to determine needs and what existing courses/materials may be available to address critical topics. Its report is expected in June 2012, so stay tuned.

And...Lest you think we've forgotten those who have graduated—nope, we definitely haven't. As you know, in 2011 the Animal Welfare Committee and Animal Welfare Division collaborated to produce two full days of continuing education for the AVMA Convention. Enthusiasm for the 2011 sessions was clear as more than 100 individuals attended several of these lectures, despite competition from approximately thirty other simultaneously conducted educational sessions! We've expanded our offerings to three full days for 2012 so be sure to check us out in San Diego. Or...are you planning a meeting and need a speaker? Give us a call...we can help you there as well.

Maybe you're not looking for a lecture, but just current information on a particular topic? As you know, the Animal Welfare Division is continually working on developing new informational resources and updating existing ones. In fact, materials have recently been updated for two of the topics discussed in this edition of Welfare Focus: housing for laying hens and the debate surrounding unwanted horses. See a topic that needs to be addressed, but is missing? Share it and we'll consider an addition to the library.

There's more happening on the educational front, both for veterinarians and otherwise, but this is probably enough for one e-newsletter—let's just say we're looking at some creative solutions for getting good information into the right hands. If you've got a suggestion we're all ears.

As always, if you have questions about what the AVMA is doing or suggestions about what it should be doing, please don't hesitate to contact us. Don't forget that AVMA members also have the opportunity to provide input into animal welfare-related policy via our website. And, remember to visit the AVMA's social media sites (e.g., Facebook, AVMA-at-Work, Twitter) to see what we've been up to and to join the conversation on topics of importance to you.

I'm excited about what we can and need to accomplish together in 2012, and hope you are too!

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