Fifth Annual HSVMA Animal Welfare Symposium Hosted by Michigan State CVM

March 2020

By Heather Schrader, RVT

Program Manager, Student Outreach

The fifth annual HSVMA Animal Welfare Symposium broke new ground this year at Michigan State University CVM.  Held on Saturday, October 5, the symposium offered two tracks of lectures on topics ranging from equine welfare to street medicine.  The HSVMA student chapter at Michigan State (President-Jennie Nguyen, Vice President-Ashley MacDonald, and Secretary/Treasurer-Courtney Senkewitz) did an outstanding job organizing the event with help from their faculty adviser, Dr. Emery Engers.  Approximately 80 attendees, including students representing 10 veterinary schools and a local veterinary technician program.  Thanks to this year's sponsors, Maddies’s Fund, the Kislak Family Foundation and Total Planning Veterinary Services, HSVMA was able to provide travel stipends to 11 veterinary students. 

Two students in attendance, Hillary Merry from Cornell University and Lauren Oviedo from Western University, had been awarded HSVMA Student Animal Welfare Scholars grants earlier in the year to do summer research on an animal welfare-related topic.  They presented their research in poster format alongside three other attending veterinary students who had welfare-related research topics funded by other organizations.  Projects included an analysis of New York State shelter adoption policies and an examination of the cow-calf bond and separation in dairy cattle. 

The symposium started off with an insightful lecture by the Dean of Michigan State College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Birgit Puschner, entitled The Complex Issue of Toxicology, Wildlife, Endangered and Non-Target Species.  It was an honor to have her kick-off the day of lectures!  After Dean Puschner’s lecture, the attendees split up and attended talks in one of two tracks.  One track included lectures by Dr. Jon Geller on caring for pets of the indigent, lectures given by Dr. Antonia Gardner on basic wildlife medicine and care of exotic companion mammals, a presentation by Dr. Erin Katribe about the role of veterinary medical care during a disaster response and her experience with a distemper outbreak following Hurricane Harvey, and a lecture by Dr. Holly Cheever outlining the veterinarian’s role in equine protection and advocacy. 

The second lecture track offered a diverse array of lectures.  Dr. Pam Greenwald spoke about the veterinarian’s role in recognizing and reporting animal cruelty and veterinary forensics, including information about what to expect when testifying in an animal cruelty case.  Dr. Emery Engers presented a lecture on end of life care in companion animals and Dr. Shirene Cece spoke about the five freedoms and how they are applied to animals in a shelter setting.  Dr. Marie Hopfensperger gave her lecture, Behavioral Pharmacology to Enhance Welfare in the Shelter Setting, and the track came to a close with a RAVS suture lab.  This lab taught students the suture and surgical techniques used in remote clinics provided by Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS). 

After the didactic portion of the symposium was over, the networking began with a gathering at Lansing Brewing Company.  Students and speakers were able to chat and network while enjoying good food and drink. 

Students had a chance to extend their symposium experience on Sunday as volunteers at a street clinic in Detroit.  Dr. Jon Geller, Founder and Director of The Street Dog Coalition, and a group of veterinary students provided free basic veterinary care at a clinic for homeless or low-income individuals and their pets.  Along with veterinary care for their dog or cat, clients had the opportunity to receive free medical care from Street Medicine Detroit, free haircuts, and free clothing provided by Burners Without Borders.  The clinic was truly a One Health event.  Participating veterinarians from the Detroit area hope to continue providing free veterinary care at these clinics in the future. 

HSVMA is proud to provide this free symposium every year and bring together veterinarians and students who are dedicated to animal welfare.  The Animal Welfare Symposium will return in 2020 at a new location, hopefully at a vet school near you!