Each year we teach around 120 students about animal care and veterinary nursing. This picture is taken in our main teaching classroom, of Steph, our past student and current vet nurse technician, in charge of running classes and maintaining the welfare of all the animals in our care. Her lovely dog, Milly, is a regular attendee at our classes. I don't suppose most people think about it much, but ensuring the well being of the animals we care for during the training is an issue we have to be transparent about all the time.
The Animal Welfare Act of 1999 governs how we use animals for research, testing and teaching (RTT) in New Zealand. The passing of this law marked a major milestone in the development of New Zealand's animal welfare system and apparently includes some of the world's most progressive and comprehensive animal welfare law. It took effect from 1 January 2000.
The main reason for the Act is the obligation to care for animals. Although it outlines penalties for ill-treatment of animals, there is greater emphasis on prevention by clearly establishing the obligations of those responsible for the care of animals. The needs of animals take note of the internationally recognised five freedoms:
- proper and sufficient food and water
- adequate shelter
- the opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour
- physical handling in a way which minimises the likelihood of unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress
- protection from, and rapid diagnosis of, any significant injury or disease.
It is an offence to use live animals in research, testing and teaching unless:
- a person (including an organisation) has an approved code of ethical conduct (CEC) or works for a person who holds an approved CEC and
- individual projects are approved by an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) and carried out in accordance with any conditions imposed
- The term “research, testing and teaching” covers any research, testing or teaching that involves the “manipulation” of any animal.
What we can do is to make use of replacement methods.
So we use stuffed toys to start their skills:
"Dog bandaging practice"
A fake breathing cat fits the bill for an expo on pet products :)
We use models for anatomy training -
Plastic models that come to pieces like a 3d jigsaw... expensive but durable,
or moulded rubber
A real cat that is freeze dried ( yes, you can buy them...)
I guess better to use one for hundreds of students than a real cat.
We can also use online demonstrations...Sometimes we run carefully supervised teaching sessions with our own pets...Jess and Saffy loved these sessions, but I haven't used Saff since she was so ill.
Sometimes we have trouble telling which is the dog and which is the student :)
One are of concern has always been how often can you examine an animal, and obviously, it can vary with their temperament.... but we know that our students need to improve and learn their practical skills.
So we work out alternatives. The latest one we want to try is a technique for taking cat and dog rectal temperatures!Apparently, when placed in warm water, these "water wigglers" make perfect substitutes for the real thing!!!
Finally, I had to share this twitter from Stephen Fry today - doing his bit for ethics and animal rescue...click on it to see the original and read the fine print.