Meet the winners!

Published on May 09, 2018

Three veterinary awards announced during National Pet Week®

There’s no better time than National Pet Week® to recognize accomplishments in the fields of animal welfare and human-animal interactions. We’re proud to take this opportunity to announce the winners of three of the most prestigious awards in veterinary medicine: the AVMA Animal Welfare and Humane Awards, and the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award.

This awards trifecta showcases the best of veterinary medicine by rewarding individual accomplishments in the fields of animal welfare and human-animal interactions. It’s fitting that the recipients are announced during National Pet Week®, May 6-12, which encourages responsible and loving care for the many pets that enrich our lives.

“National Pet Week celebrates the special joy that pets bring into our lives,” said AVMA President Dr. Mike Topper. “This is the perfect time to honor extraordinary veterinarians and other professionals who have dedicated their lives to advancing animal health, welfare, and the human-animal bond.”

The honors will be presented at a special reception on Friday, July 13, at the 2018 AVMA Convention in Denver. The 2018 recipients are:

2018 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award

Recipient: Dr. Cynthia Otto, associate professor of critical care at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn Vet)

Named in honor of the late Leo K. Bustad, an internationally recognized educator, scientist, humanitarian and pioneer in human-animal interactions, this award recognizes the outstanding work of a veterinarian in preserving and protecting human-animal relationships. Dr. Otto’s work with search and rescue dogs that operated in the aftermath of 9/11 inspired her to create the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. As founder and executive director, Dr. Otto provides rehabilitation, fitness and conditioning training to working dogs, including those involved in law enforcement, search and rescue, and sporting events. During more than 30 years practicing veterinary medicine, she also has contributed to research on critical illness, focusing on hypoxia and sepsis, and working and performance dogs.

“Dr. Otto has embarked on a unique aspect of the human-animal bond by working closely with search and rescue dogs, for whom she provides medical care,” said Dr. Oliver Garden, chair of the Penn Vet Department of Clinical Sciences and Advanced Medicine, who nominated her. He also cited her “commitment to advancing the science of working and performance dogs, and the very important human-companion animal bond that underlies all such encounters.”

2018 AVMA Animal Welfare Award

Recipient: Dr. T. Robert Bashara, founder of Gentle Doctor Animal Hospitals in the Omaha, Neb., area

The Animal Welfare Award is presented to an AVMA member for advancing the welfare of animals via leadership, public service, education, research/product development, and/or advocacy. Dr. Bashara has dedicated his life to well-pet care and educating the public about the health and welfare benefits of spaying and neutering pets. Under his leadership, the Doris Day Animal League Spay Day program became World Spay Day.

“Bob Bashara has a commitment to animals second to none,” said Dr. Pat Halbur, the Dr. Stephen G. Juelsgaard interim dean of veterinary medicine at Iowa State University, who nominated him. “He has raised funds to support hundreds of organizations across the nation who house, feed, and provide veterinary care to thousands of rescued animals every year.”

2018 AVMA Humane Award

Recipient: Amanda Arrington, founder and director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Pets for Life program

This award is presented to a non-veterinarian who has helped advance the welfare of animals through leadership, public service, education, research/product development, and/or advocacy. The Pets for Life program raises awareness of the needs of pets in poverty and helps pet owners keep the pets they love. Pets for Life runs two outreach programs that serve the cities of Los Angeles and Philadelphia, and has mentored or inspired other initiatives across the country.

“Many of the programs we operate at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine are based on the values of Pets for Life that all community members love and deserve their pets, and all pets in America deserve access to veterinary care,” said Dr. Emily McCobb, director of the Tufts Shelter Medicine Program, who nominated Arrington for the award. “Pets for Life works with local veterinarians to provide care to clients that otherwise would not have access, and has been a model program for animal welfare groups across the country who wish to expand their services beyond the shelter walls. I believe Amanda’s impact on the humane movement and the impact of the programs she has founded on countless families are unmeasurable.”

Each award winner will receive an honorarium to support a program or organization in his or her field of interest, along with a travel and lodging stipend to attend the AVMA Convention, July 13-17.

The 2018 AVMA Animal Welfare, Humane, and Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year awards — three of the AVMA Excellence Awards — are made possible through the generous support of Merck Animal Health.



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