Winners announced for 2019 AVMA Animal Welfare Assessment Competition

For more information Phone: 847-285-6687 Cell: 847-732-6194
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AWJAC winners 2019

The 19th annual American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Animal Welfare Assessment Contest took place this past weekend at Colorado State University, with a record 244 participants representing 25 universities competing in live and computer-based assessments of the welfare of animals in a variety of settings.

Participants included undergraduates, graduate students, veterinary students and AVMA member veterinarians, who were evaluated on their decisions and by how well they presented and justified their positions to a team of judges.

The contest also included keynote addresses from Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University, and Ruth Woiwode, a livestock auditor with Food Safety Net Services, who like Grandin holds a Ph.D. in animal science.

Winners in the Undergraduate Division included Samantha Likar, University of Minnesota, for Live Assessment High Scoring Individual; Texas A&M University, for Live Assessment High Scoring Team; Ashley Dunn, Michigan State University Team 1, for 1st Place Overall Individual; and the Michigan State University Team 1 for 1st Place Overall Team.

Winners in the Graduate Division included Shannon Kelley, the Ohio State University, for Live Assessment High Scoring Individual; Colorado State University, for Live Assessment High Scoring Team; Emma Heuchan, University of Guelph, for 1st Place Overall Individual; and University of Guelph, for 1st Place Overall Team.

Winners in the Veterinary Division included Brittany Senecal, University of Illinois, for Live Assessment High Scoring Individual; Michigan State University, for Live Assessment High Scoring Team; Caleb Brezina, Iowa State University, for 1st Place Overall Individual; and Ontario Veterinary College, for 1st Place Overall Team.

"We're excited that this event continues to draw more and more participants every year. It's a great indication of the leadership role veterinarians play—and will continue to play—in protecting animals' welfare," said Dr. John Howe, president of the AVMA. "These dedicated future veterinarians and animal scientists have worked hard to prepare for this contest, and the things they've learned and the connections they've made this past weekend will help position them for great success in their future careers."

Founded at Michigan State University in 2001, the Animal Welfare Assessment Contest—also known as AWJAC, for the acronym by which it was formerly known (Animal Welfare Judging/Assessment Contest)—was modeled on traditional livestock, horse and meat judging competitions to encourage students to learn about welfare while competing with students from universities across North America. The competition teaches students to assess the welfare of animals in a variety of settings using science-based methods and reasoning.

The contest ensures that tomorrow's animal industry leaders not only acquire enhanced knowledge of animal welfare, but also develop strong communication skills so that they can effectively share information.

The next two Animal Welfare Assessment Contests will be held in 2020 and 2021 at North Carolina State University, followed by contests in 2022 and 2023 at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

"North Carolina State University, College of Veterinary Medicine is proud to partner with AVMA to host the 2020 and 2021 Animal Welfare Assessment Contests," said Monique Pairis-Garcia, DVM, PhD, DACAW, associate professor of global production animal welfare at North Carolina State University. "Animal welfare is recognized as a key competency in veterinary education and veterinarians play a key role in educating their clients and community on animal welfare. This contest will provide the opportunity for veterinary, graduate, and undergraduate students to acquire the knowledge and communication skills to advance science and improve animal welfare across all species."

"We are very excited to host the 2022 and 2023 Animal Welfare Assessment Contests at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls," said Kurt D. Vogel, Ph.D., associate professor of animal welfare and behavior at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. "Animal welfare is a core component of our animal science curriculum and culture, so we look forward to joining in the advancement of the animal welfare science field by welcoming the contest participants, coaches, judges and volunteers to our campus."

To learn more about the Animal Welfare Assessment Contest, visit

For more information, contact Michael San Filippo, AVMA senior media relations specialist, at 847-285-6687 (office), 847-732-6194 (cell) or msanfilippoatavma [dot] org (msanfilippo[at]avma[dot]org).

About the AVMA

Serving more than 100,000 member veterinarians, the AVMA is the nation's leading representative of the veterinary profession, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of animals, humans and the environment. Founded in 1863 and with members in every U.S. state and territory and more than 60 countries, the AVMA is one of the largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. Informed by our members' unique scientific training and clinical knowledge, the AVMA supports the crucial work of veterinarians and advocates for policies that advance the practice of veterinary medicine and improve animal and human health.