Louisiana State University’s shelter medicine program is unusual for the training its students give to prisoners caring for adoptable dogs and cats, but other universities also work with prisons, particularly with prison farms.
Texas A&M University is among those that have agreements through which students and faculty care for farm animals kept on prison grounds. TAMU has given veterinary care to animals owned by the state’s prison system since at least the 1960s.
An agreement between the prison system and the university provides two-week rotations at prison farms across the state for students in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences—nearly all in their fourth year—to care for cattle, pigs, chickens, horses, and dogs.
The dogs and horses are used for security, and the rest provide food served in the state’s prisons or income from selling offspring.
“There’s a large number of animals of each species within the prison system, and the students have the ability to get their hands dirty, so to speak, and practice the technical skills that they’ll need to be practicing veterinarians,” Dr. Brandon J. Dominguez said.
Dr. Dominguez, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M veterinary college, said students see diverse clientele and patients through the prison work. In treating those species, they are involved in deworming, vaccination, dentistry, pregnancy diagnosis, equine castration, anesthesia, blood sample collection, ophthalmology, artificial insemination, farm record analysis, herd maintenance, and routine examination.
Dr. Dominguez said the rotation also provides opportunities to perform specialty services. The university’s equine theriogenology group, for example, spends weeks during breeding season scanning for follicles, collecting stallions, and breeding mares, and surgeons provide castration and hernia repairs.
Dr. Glennon B. Mays, a clinical associate professor, said the work with the criminal justice department is intended to serve two state agencies by giving needed veterinary care to animals and experience to the students. The prison farms generate food and reduce the prison system’s costs, and benefits for inmates are not the primary consideration, he said.
But, Dr. Mays said he thinks some of the prisoners who work on the farms have a sense of responsibility for the
animals and take pride in their work.
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