Ontario Veterinary College Ends Terminal Surgeries, Adopts Humane Surgical Training

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association applauds the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College for moving to eliminate terminal surgeries from the school’s surgical curriculum beginning this semester. Terminal surgeries refers to the practice of using live animals for surgical training of veterinary students. The animals are euthanized after the procedure.

Instead the school will implement a surgical training curriculum that gives students the opportunity to develop hand skills with simulators and anatomic models, practice these skills on cadavers, and perform closely supervised surgery on live animals who will benefit from the surgery.

Dr. Erika Sullivan, a 2005 graduate of Ontario Veterinary College, congratulated the school on making the positive curriculum change, which she estimated would spare the lives of more than 300 dogs and sheep who were previously euthanized each year as part of the school’s training program. With support from Animal Alliance of Canada, Dr. Sullivan worked with college administrators for several years to make changes in the curriculum.

“The new approach is an ethical and practical solution that saves money and provides students with the latest educational technology,” said Dr. Sullivan, an HSVMA member. “In teaching and in practice, veterinarians should be at the forefront of the effort to save lives, minimize suffering and maximize well-being.

Students will gain surgical experience with live animals by spaying and neutering shelter animals, who will be returned to the shelter for adoption. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in supervised anesthetic and surgical procedures in the college’s new Primary Healthcare Centre.

”This is a welcome development for the veterinary profession,” said Dr. Susan Krebsbach, an HSVMA veterinary consultant. “Euthanizing an animal for the purpose of veterinary training can be very traumatic and stressful for many students. It is a violation of not only their ethical beliefs but also their commitment to the health of their patients and their concern for animal welfare.”

The curriculum change at Ontario Veterinary College is in line with the recent trend at veterinary schools in North America to move towards more animal welfare-friendly veterinary training that does not involve any harmful or terminal procedures on animals. Fewer than 10 of the 28 veterinary schools in the United States still include terminal procedures in their core surgical training, Additionally, at least one other veterinary school in Canada, Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island, does not include terminal surgeries in their training.

HSVMA has worked with veterinary students at several schools in recent years, such as Oklahoma State and Washington State universities, to push for an end to terminal surgeries and to advocate for the continued use of live animals in ways that benefit both the animals and the students.

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) was formed as a home for veterinary professionals who want to join together to speak out for animals, engage in direct care programs for animals in need, and educate the public and others in the profession about animal welfare issues. The HSVMA is an affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States.

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