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Academic, education & animal welfare sessions

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Monday 6 April

In many countries, veterinary applicant numbers far exceed the number of places available, and there is usually a low attrition rates of selected students. Given these factors, student selection essentially becomes a proxy for practitioner selection, and as such may be the most important assessment in a veterinary programme. This presentation will consider veterinary student selection processes in light of this overarching concept of programme selection equalling profession selection.

The explosion in knowledge has put veterinary curricula under strain – now every discipline must justify its existence. So how do preclinical sciences such as anatomy and physiology fit into competence as a veterinarian? This presentation discusses the relevance and future of preclinical science in veterinary programmes.

New Zealand and other countries are experiencing an apparent shortage of veterinarians. The authors will present figures documenting the supply and demand for veterinarians in New Zealand; results of a recent analysis of Massey veterinary graduates registering with the Veterinary Council of New Zealand and quantitative results from a survey of two Massey cohorts (10 and 20 years following graduation). Reasons for veterinarians leaving clinical practice and the profession in general will be discussed.

Knowledge, skills and attributes are all critical components for a veterinary professional. The ever-expanding literature makes it even more critical that students develop skills for lifelong learning. Students must also develop competencies in areas as diverse as communication skills, emotional intelligence, business and personal financial management, and wellness leading to further crowding of the curriculum. We need agreement on how much time is appropriate to devote to these areas during veterinary training.

In many western countries there is increasing effort to improve the access of ethnic minorities and lower socioeconomic status individuals to veterinary education. This presentation will consider why this is and what benefits there could be from increasing the diversity of our veterinary students, and eventually profession. Some strategies utilised to this end will be discussed, including a case study of Māori students, who are indigenous to New Zealand.

The profession is changing, our students have variable backgrounds and expectations, information is everywhere and both students and staff are struggling with workload. How do we reconcile all of this into an effective undergraduate curriculum? This presentation will look at the challenges of designing and teaching a curriculum for Generation Z veterinary students entering modern veterinary practice.


Tuesday 7 April

The Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists seeks to serve the veterinary profession and reward excellence. This lecture will cover the potential role that the College can play in enriching the careers and lives of veterinarians in New Zealand.

The ‘Five Domains’ has largely superseded the ‘Five Freedoms’ for scientific welfare assessment. Emerging benefits in the veterinary context include providing a comprehensive, transparent and evidence-based system for organizing and presenting evidence of welfare impacts/benefits and encouraging owners and vets to look for opportunities to promote positive experiences for animals.

Brachycephaly unequivocally affects respiratory function. However, the implications of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) for the animal itself have not been systematically explored. I will present neurophysiological and behavioural evidence supporting the scientific position that BOAS leads to various unpleasant experiences, collectively termed breathlessness, that compromise animal welfare.

Veterinarians are often regarded as experts in animal welfare. This notion appears to stem from their training in veterinary science, professional expectations outlined in national and international laws and by veterinary regulatory bodies. If this assumption is to be accurate, the new curriculum needs to embed veterinary science teaching within an animal welfare framework. The anticipated effect will enhance veterinarians’ understanding of animal welfare and promote its application in professional practice. Research currently underway will explore this effect.

Euthanasia decisions for older cats are complex and there is a need to better understand the factors involved in end-of-life (EoL) decision-making to improve the decisions that are made, maximize feline welfare, and reduce the emotional burden on owners and veterinarians. This talk will discuss research exploring how owners and veterinarians of older and chronically ill cats made EoL decisions and the veterinarian’s role in the decision-making process.

Consideration of animal welfare is a critical component of modern emergency management due to the complex bond between humans and animals. This bond has been attributed to evacuation non-compliance of pet owners and return to cordoned areas to rescue or tend to their animals in recent disasters. Put simply the human animal bond is considered a safety-risk factor with negative influences on owners’ planning for and responding to emergency events. It is ultimately a human issue due to a strong link between animal welfare and human well-being. Hurricane Katrina has served as a reminder for the necessity of including the considerations of animals in disaster planning to avoid compounding the emotional and economic toll on individuals and communities impacted by devastating loss or injury. Many refused to evacuate from an area because they were made to leave their pets behind or they ignored cordoned off areas to go back into unsafe zones to rescue their pets. Therefore, animal welfare, human welfare and the environment in disasters cannot be addressed separately due to the interwoven dependencies of each. Hence, the One Welfare framework should be considered throughout all phases of disaster management. This presentation will discuss how the One Welfare framework can be implemented in disaster management.

Disasters can strike anywhere, at any time, and without warning. Recent events have highlighted how devastating disasters can be on communities, businesses and how local resources can become quickly overwhelmed. Additionally, climate change makes extreme weather events more likely than before with increased frequency and intensity. Albeit with this evidence people are still complacent about personal emergency preparedness which is then reflected equally inadequately in business. The stark reality of disasters is that it is not a matter of if it will happen; it is a matter of when. The number of people affected by disasters and the costs associated with these events is increasing. Hence there is a requirement to have practice and personal emergency plans in place to mitigate the effects of such disasters, particularly to veterinary business. There are consultants who can help businesses develop emergency and business continuity plans but the aim of this presentation is to give a basic outline of how veterinary businesses can prepare for disasters.


Wednesday 8 April

Animal welfare means different things in different countries, languages and contexts, with a variety of opinions about why it matters and what constitutes good animal welfare. If we are to achieve higher standards of animal welfare globally, there is a need to develop approaches that enable constructive evidence based discussions to take place where there are significant competing public, political and commercial agendas. Developing effective methodologies for bridging the gap and overcoming barriers is now recognized as essential for engaging communities and governments in productive discussions about why animal welfare matters and the need for positive change. In these situations, animal welfare improvement initiatives need to be multi-faceted, taking into account not just scientific, ethical, and economic evidence, but also the religious and cultural context, and other factors such as international trade policy considerations. Although human welfare, social welfare, and animal welfare have traditionally been distinct disciplines, the integrating concept of ‘One Welfare’, offers us a way forward for highlighting the inter-connectedness of human and animal welfare, an approach that is particularly relevant when addressing animal welfare across borders. This highlights the importance of understanding human attitudes and behaviour and consequently methods for effective change management to ensure animal welfare objectives can be achieved.

Good planning, monitoring and evaluation enable an organisation to extract relevant information from past and ongoing activities used as the basis for pragmatic fine-tuning, reorientation and future project planning. The recording of specific data sets prior to and then periodically during a projects lifetime is ideal in demonstrating change. However, an evaluation of baseline data should also indicate impact or verifiable differences to the lives of animals and people including welfare, economic, environmental and/or social effects of a programme.

The Horse Trust is the world’s oldest equine charity and has four key purposes: providing sanctuary to retired working horses and equine welfare cases; funding scientific research; developing skills and knowledge in the horse industry; and informing Government policy. For the last 20 years the Horse Trust has been the major funder of welfare-related equine scientific research. This talk will provide the research highlights from the wide range of research supported by the charity including advances in understanding the pathogenesis, epidemiology, diagnosis and management of strangles; the molecular epidemiology of anthelmintic resistance in cyathostomins, development of targeted working strategies and development of new diagnostic tests, including a test for encysted cyathostomin larvae; development of a diagnostic test for hypoglycin-A, the cause of atypical myopathy; attitudes to biosecurity in the leisure horse sector including understanding of disease risk and barriers to implementation of biosecurity measures; attitudes to the care of geriatric horses; and development of practical measures of quality of life in the horse. The Horse Trust has recently announced the launch of a large scale, long term cohort study in horses in the UK, the first of its type, that is expected to generate and new insights into the interactions between equine disease, equine behaviour and decision making by horse-owners.

Equid welfare is at the core of each activity carried out by The Donkey Sanctuary. This presentation focuses on the approach to welfare assessment we use, including why and how, introducing the EARS Tool we use to collect field-data. Examples will include working equids in brick kilns, donkeys in meat/skins production farms and those in sanctuary care with an emphasis on the benefits to all when welfare assessment is embedded in our approach.

Making the decision to end an equine’s life is the ultimate responsibility for an owner. This often highly emotional decision must not be clouded by the belief that the quantity of life is more important than its quality. All end-of-life decisions must be based on what is best for the equine. Euthanasia is preferred in many countries, but in others it is not available or is unaffordable. So what are the best options and what role should the equine practitioner play in supporting owners?

Donkeys are estimated to provide huge economic and social importance to up to 500 million people in developmental countries. The largely Asian led demand for ejiao, a traditional Chinese medicine, extracted from the hides of donkeys, has led to significant reductions in global donkey populations, major welfare compromises and profound effects on animal owners and families. Additional links to illegal wildlife and drug trafficking, spread of contagious disease and as well as zoonotic disease are recorded. Multiple global actions have been undertaken but further unified actions are necessary.

This session will focus on quality-of-life and end-of-life decision making regarding equines in a variety of situations – retirement, rescue and rehoming, sanctuary care, slaughter for meat and by-products, euthanasia etc.

Until recently animal welfare assessment traditionally relied on measures of physical health, and changes in behaviour and physiology related to negative emotional states such as pain and stress. However, it is now widely accepted that good welfare is not simply the absence of disease or negative experiences, but also the presence of positive experiences such as comfort and pleasure. It is becoming recognised that the horse’s state of mind, beside the rider’s emotional state and ability, affects performance regardless of equestrian discipline. If the horse’s mood is positive, then there is a higher probability of positive reactions to human interventions and improved performance outcomes. To ensure horses experience optimal performance and good welfare it is necessary to understand what ‘good’ is from the horse’s perspective, how good welfare can be assessed across a range of environments and equine uses, and what needs to be done to achieve positive emotional states. The development of a universally agreed, validated Equine Quality of Life assessment tool incorporating evidence based indicators of positive and negative emotional states, will provide a means of assessing lifelong well-being, in addition to identifying emotional responses to specific situations.

For many working equids their interactions with vets may be fairly infrequent but interactions with their owners are daily occurrences. Brooke’s Compassionate Handling for Life project aims to improve the lifetime experience for animals that interact with humans and promote positive connections as well as reducing the negative. Good farriery and comfortable harnesses also make a daily impact on working equids. Brooke’s Global Farriery Project and Brooke’s harnessing project, alongside Compassionate Handling, form part of an overall approach towards cumulative positive welfare over the lifetime of a working equid.

The Five Domains Model provides a scientifically supported basis for systematic and comprehensive assessment of animal welfare. The Model facilitates structured assessment of negative and positive features of animals’ nutritional, environmental, health and behavioural management, and the associated welfare-relevant negative and/or positive experiences the animals may have. This paper describes how the Model was integrated by the NZTR into its Thoroughbred Welfare Assessment Guidelines.

There are around 50 million working donkeys in the world, each donkey keeping a family alive. Poor harnessing and lack of knowledge on the subject mean that most of these animals suffer needlessly. Simple, improved systems of harness are possible, made from locally available materials and often using local skills means that they, and the families who depend on them could produce more, live longer and have better welfare.

Human behaviour change is integral to improving animal welfare. By working with equine owners around the world we are better understanding their current behaviours and the barriers preventing them from carrying out best practices in areas such as biosecurity, colic, end of life decisions and working equid management. This knowledge can inform educational and community initiatives increasing desired behaviours and ultimately impact.

Growing demand for ejiao – a gelatin produced from donkey skin and used in Traditional Chinese Medicine – is putting global donkey populations at risk and threatening the livelihoods of millions of people that depend on them. While Africa remains the primary source of both legally and illegally-sourced donkey hides to China, the trade is spreading across the globe. This talk will explore the global impact of the donkey skin trade with a spotlight on Kenya – where the donkey population has depleted to critically low levels – looking at the welfare of the donkeys, the effects on vulnerable people and the potential for disease spread and hazards to human health.