December 01, 2013


 LEGENDS: Educator, leader, advocate

Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver champions the cause of animal welfare 

Posted Nov. 20, 2013 

​  Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver and Murphy
Veterinary medicine was more of a calling than a career choice for Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver. “It chose me. I never knew I was going to do anything different,” she explained.
Dr. Beaver has devoted decades of her life to academia and organized veterinary medicine, training future veterinarians while helping chart the course of their profession. As a charter diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, she played a part in formalizing the training and science promoting the behavioral well-being of animals.

Perhaps Dr. Beaver’s most noteworthy contributions to veterinary medicine are in the field of animal welfare. During her address to the AVMA House of Delegates as AVMA president-elect in 2004, Dr. Beaver challenged the Association to take a greater leadership role in advocating for animal health and well-being.

At that time, she said animal industries and the public expect veterinarians to be the leaders in animal welfare, and yet, the AVMA had historically resisted taking on such a prominent role. “It’s time to get our heads out of the sand,” Dr. Beaver declared.

She called on AVMA leaders to more fully engage the issue of animal well-being by establishing an animal welfare division within the Association, a proposal the Executive Board approved later that year. Today, the division is staffed by four experts in animal welfare, which remains a central focus of the Association. 

Servant teacher

Dr. Beaver received her DVM degree from the University of Minnesota in 1968, and a year later, joined the faculty of Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, where she is currently a professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences.

A board-certified animal behaviorist, Dr. Beaver has published more than 200 scientific articles, authored eight textbooks, and presented hundreds of seminars on animal behavior, the human-animal bond, and grief counseling to veterinarians and other health-care professionals, students, and pet owners.

“My passions are students and teaching,” Dr. Beaver said. “If I can help promote new knowledge and advance the profession, then that’s a good thing. That’s what teachers want to do: They want to help the next generation make the profession better than it is currently.”

In 1996, Dr. Beaver won the AVMA Animal Welfare Award. “Animals have benefited from Bonnie Beaver’s work because of the knowledge she has gained about animal welfare, animal behavior, and how this is tied to the human-animal bond. … She’s taught people what it is to know normal behavior in an animal; how to give animals good, responsible care; and how this may affect their behavior throughout life,” remarked former AVMA President Leon H. Russell, a TAMU faculty colleague at the time.

Five years later, Dr. Beaver was honored again, with the Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award.
Dr. Beaver has been involved in organized veterinary medicine her entire career. An active member of the Texas VMA since 1970, she served as president (1994-1995) and four terms on the TVMA board of directors in addition to being a member and chair of numerous association committees.  

Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver testifies before a congressional committee about the welfare consequences of a federal ban on horse slaughter.

At the national level, Dr. Beaver has been involved with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Animal Hospital Association, American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians, and American Association for the Advancement of Science. Moreover, she is a founder and charter member of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior.  

Additionally, Dr. Beaver has served on a number of professional advisory committees and task forces, including those of the Pew National Veterinary Education Program, National Academy of Sciences, and Institute for Laboratory Animal Resources. 

Dr. Beaver’s extensive volunteer work for the AVMA includes serving as president (2004-2005) and Executive Board member (1997-2003) and chair (2001-2002). She was a member of the AVMA Council on Education, American Board of Veterinary Specialties, Committee on the Human-Animal Bond, and Educational Commission on Foreign Veterinary Graduates, and chair of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia (1998-2000). 

Welfare advocate

As a veterinarian, Dr. Beaver always wanted to help animals in a meaningful way. But it was during her term as AVMA president-elect that she fully grasped the importance of veterinarians being leaders in animal welfare. Congress was debating a federal ban on horse slaughter. For Dr. Beaver, a horse owner and lifetime member of the Palomino Horse Breeders of America, the issue hit close to home, because the welfare of unwanted horses was addressed only superficially in the proposed legislation.
“I realized we had better move our profession in the direction of leading in this area,” Dr. Beaver said.
This effort didn’t stop with establishing the AVMA Animal Welfare Division. In 2012, the Executive Board granted provisional recognition to the American College of Animal Welfare—only the third organization in the world that certifies animal welfare specialists. It was the culmination of a seven-year journey, and for Dr. Beaver, a member of ACAW’s organizing committee, the AVMA action was a long time coming.

“As with all other disciplines within the veterinary profession, there are multiple levels of expertise, and it’s important for the profession to have individuals who are highly trained in the broad aspects of animal welfare and who understand the related science,” Dr. Beaver said at the time. Earlier this year, the college credentialed its first three diplomates.
Asked if there is any one achievement she is especially proud of, Dr. Beaver responded, “No. I just do what I do. If I see something in my interest area that needs to be done, I do it.”