The change is three years in the making, but finally, the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine is eliminating terminal surgeries in dogs, according to a spokesperson for the university. For years, the university has used purpose-bred dogs, typically hounds and beagles, for the third-year surgery course. The dogs were then euthanized after the surgery while still under anesthesia. The university will now begin using live pigs to teach veterinary students basic surgery skills, such as delivering and monitoring anesthesia and handling live-animal tissue. Students with reservations about working on live animals will still have the option of using cadavers to practice their skills.
In addition to the pending change in the third-year, preclinical surgery course, the university is also partnering with the Central Missouri Humane Society to give students in the clinical curriculum additional hands-on training. "The shelter medicine course allows our students to refine their clinical skills in a controlled and supervised environment," says John Dodam, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVA, chairman of the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery at the university. "This program allows our students an opportunity to participate in a service-learning experience that will benefit our community and our local humane societies while gaining additional practical experience in physical examination, anesthesia and elective surgical procedures, such as ovariohysterectomies and neuters."
While the university views these changes in the curriculum as positive, some animal welfare groups, such as the American Anti-Vivisection Society and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA), still think there's room for improvement. "The University of Missouri is obviously at a turning point in its surgical curriculum and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association congratulates them on the positive move to give veterinary students more spay and neuter training with shelter animals," says Paula Kislak, DVM, president of the HSVMA Board of Directors in a written statement. "However, it is extremely disappointing that terminal surgeries are still being performed and we hope that University of Missouri will soon follow the example of many other veterinary schools and eliminate these procedures."
Dr. Dodam defends the university's decision, saying, "Our objective is to find an option that is responsive to many Americans' understandable concern about using dogs in surgical training while still meeting society's needs for competently trained veterinarians. We feel that the combination of our shelter medicine program and a preclinical surgical teaching using models, cadavers and swine will provide our students with excellent surgical training."
The College of Veterinary Medicine will implement these curriculum changes in 2013.