Friday, July 30, 2010

50% of dogs in university vet program killed

The University of Guelph says more resources will be utilized in a summer program at the Ontario Veterinary College to cut down on the number of young beagles that die during training.
So far this summer, 10 out of 20 dogs have died in the VSTEP program that allows immigrant veterinarians to obtain their credentials to work in Ontario. The dogs, which are bred specifically for use at the college, have died as a result of spay and neuter surgeries.
"The institution has now, in terms of future surgeries, put professional veterinary surgeons with trainees," Chuck Cunningham, the university's director of communications, told QMI Agency Thursday.
He said it's important to remember the trainees are just learning how to do the surgeries, but additional resources in the future will help them keep more dogs alive in order to adopt them out.
The treatment of beagles at the college was called into question earlier this week when the organization Animal Alliance of Canada called out to its members to adopt the dogs.
Liz White of the Alliance told QMI Agency that up until now, the college would "anesthetize, sterilize and euthanize" the dogs. That meant that once the Veterinary Skills, Training and Enhancement Program (VSTEP) was over for the year, the dogs were destroyed.
White said her organization lobbied the university to adopt the dogs that survived the end of the program.
"Our intention is to get them all a good home," she said. "What lesson does this teach a veterinarian?"
The college will adopt the dogs out through its own program, and White is encouraging people to get their applications in now. She said so far, she's had about 100 requests from people from as far away as Vancouver and the southwestern U.S.
She did give the college credit for being very diligent in its adoption processes, which include interviews.
But she said there is a larger problem because the college continues to use live animals and is "not transparent" about how many are used for training purposes. White said if graduates are given the option to use cadaver dogs, the college shouldn't even offer a live option.
"Why are you giving this option?" she asked. "There is absolutely no need to do these live surgeries."
Cunningham confirmed that before this year, the beagles were put down at the end of the VSTEP program. He also noted the dogs are treated humanely ‹ they are walked regularly and socialized by volunteers and students.
He said some of the allegations made on social networking websites ‹ such as that students are forced to break a dog's leg in order to learn how to set it, or they try to give dogs heart attacks to then try to save them ‹ are false.
"There's always some misinformation out there," he said. "We see the power of social media...A lot of it, too, is incorrect information."
As for live animals, Cunningham confirmed students enrolled at the college are given the option of using a live animal or a cadaver, but the school is constantly revisiting its curriculum and there may be changes in the future.
And he said all dogs that can be adopted out are sent to good homes.
"We feel the university is quite successful in its adoption program," he said.
*Taken from the Toronto Sun