Model animal welfare curriculum in the works

Published on June 01, 2010
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The AVMA will lead a collaborative effort to develop a model animal welfare curriculum for veterinary schools and colleges with funding help from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

The AVMA Executive Board approved the Office of the Executive Vice President's recommendation at its April meeting. The endeavor will begin with the Association hosting the first of two planning meetings this year with subject experts and key stakeholders.

Dr. Gail C. Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division, said a confluence of recent developments influenced the OEVP to put forth the proposal.

"Veterinary professionals are increasingly being asked to answer questions about protecting animals' well-being by animal owners and the public. In particular, stakeholders are looking to veterinarians to help resolve conflicting information that has been presented to them. Unfortunately, there are significant gaps in the understanding of the scientific and social components of these issues," Dr. Golab said.

More veterinary schools and colleges have started to introduce the topic of animal welfare into their curricula, but some are unsure where to start.

"It's not unusual for a dean or faculty member to recognize a need for more deliberate instruction on animal welfare and to contact the AVMA looking for assistance in the development of content," Dr. Golab said.

The need for a comprehensive and cohesive animal welfare curriculum was reiterated at the 2009 Joint International Educational Symposium on Animal Welfare, hosted by the AVMA and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges this past November at Michigan State University (see JAVMA, Jan. 15, 2010).

Speakers and students attending the symposium expressed concern that the topic of animal welfare was being neglected at their schools and that when information was presented, it wasn't consistent or cohesive, nor was it given enough emphasis.

In addition, during recent meetings of the North American Veterinary Medical Educational Consortium, animal welfare has been identified as an area for increased focus by participants, according to the background to the OEVP recommendation.

The AVMA hopes to correct these deficiencies and will start with forming the planning group that will shape the plan for development and implementation of the model curriculum. This body will have six to 10 subject experts plus representatives of key stakeholder organizations, including the AAVMC, the Department of Agriculture, and the Canadian VMA. Nominations for subject experts will be sought from veterinary schools and colleges and from departments of veterinary science and animal science.

"In addition to 'what,' we need to look at 'how,'" Dr. Golab said. "The veterinary curriculum is very full. A variety of delivery options have to be considered so that instructors have a choice in whether to develop new courses or creatively incorporate information in existing courses. It's key that information about animal welfare be integrated throughout the curriculum—from day one all the way to the time students receive their cap and gown," she said.

Up to $6,000 will come from the AVMA Strategic Goal Fund to cover travel and meeting expenses for the meetings this year. For 2011, the AVMF has budgeted $22,000 for the initiative.