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Positive Evolution

Shelter-vet school relationships change with the times

  • Gary Sullivan, a veterinary student at Louisiana State University, helps examine a dog in Houma, La., following Hurricane Gustav. Dr. Wendy Wolfson, director of the LSU shelter medicine program, took three students and a mobile unit to Houma following the hurricane, which left local veterinarians without power for several days. Wendy Wolfson/Louisiana State University

When Dr. Susan Krebsbach attended the Ohio State University veterinary school in the early 1990s, she had a rude awakening.

At the time there were 27 veterinary schools in the U.S., she says, and they all did “terminal surgeries”—where students would perform surgical procedures on healthy animals, then euthanize them.

Krebsbach, now a veterinary consultant for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA), a professional veterinary organization that focuses on humane veterinary training and other welfare initiatives, found the practice horrific. “I refused to do it,” she says. “I said, ‘If that’s what it takes for me to be a veterinarian, then I don’t want to be one. I don’t want to harm the animals that I’m being trained to heal.’”

Along with seven fellow students in her class of 120 at Ohio State, she sought a different path. They pushed for an alternative that allowed them to practice surgery on cadavers—animals who had been euthanized for medical or shelter overpopulation reasons, whose deaths were unrelated to their use by the medical school. “The key to me … is that the animal was not killed for the sake of my education.”

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