A new course on animal welfare is available as an elective this fall to Penn Vet's second-year students. In addition, a two-hour lecture about animal welfare will be included for the first time in the mandatory curriculum for first-year students.
The Introduction to Animal Welfare course, which will meet two hours, once a week, for 12 weeks, starts August 30. This new class will be available to 25 students.
Dr. Meghann Pierdon, Penn Vet Lecturer, designed and organized the course with Dr. Thomas Parsons, Associate Professor and Director of the Swine Teaching and Research Center. Parsons is one of the founding members of the new American College of Animal Welfare. Pierdon is one of the first swine veterinarians in the U.S. working toward board certification in welfare.
"The goal is to train veterinarians to speak as experts in the area of animal welfare," Parsons said. "Through this course and through the new board certification, we are trying to create a standard for education and train veterinarians to be leaders in the field of animal welfare."
"There is science to this. There are ways to measure welfare," Pierdon said. "It is important to have the students open their minds to the many new methods and ideas that are out there."
Pierdon and Parsons will each teach sessions of the new class, along with several of their Penn Vet colleagues. Courses include history and ethics, physiological and behavioral assessment of welfare, and current topics in animal welfare. The other classes will focus on welfare for individual species, including swine, poultry, dairy, equine, lab animals, companion animals, and zoo animals.
Dr. Carlo Siracusa, Director of the Animal Behavior Service at Penn Vet's Ryan Hospital, will teach the companion animal class. Dr. Sue McDonnell, director of Penn Vet's semi-feral pony herd, will teach the equine class. Dr. Brittany Watson, Director of Shelter Medicine and Community Engagement, will teach the shelter animal class. Dr. Meggan Hain, staff veterinarian at Penn Vet's Marshak Dairy, will teach the class on cattle. Hain is also pursuing her residency in Animal Welfare.
"We worked to have the class represent as many animal species as possible that are under human care," Pierdon said. "The students will see the whole spectrum."
The course will also include a Saturday field trip to Penn Vet's New Bolton Center, where students will see pigs at the Swine Center, semi-feral horses roaming free in pasture, and dairy cows at the Marshak Dairy.
The animal welfare course is already popular with students, as more than three times the number of students allowed for course capacity applied.
The two-hour class for first-year students is part of the Introduction to Clinical Veterinary Medicine. "We would like all students to have a common foundation in animal welfare, as the topic is important in so many aspects of veterinary medicine," Parsons said.
The American College of Animal Welfare was founded two years ago by Parsons and other veterinarians from across the nation, who became the first diplomates of the college. The College is approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which has made animal welfare instruction a priority.