Monday, 17 July 2017

Meghan Ambrozevich Blair - a life remembered

Edinburgh Napier VN awarded posthumous First Class Honours degree

Amidst recent graduation celebrations, the JMICAWE team has been remembering the short but brilliant life of Napier Veterinary Nursing student Meghan Ambrozevich-Blair, who was recently awarded a posthumous First Class Honours degree.

Meghan’s life was full of compassion; she strove to improve the lives of all animals around her, from picking up earthworms after the rain, to gaining medals for being the best HNC and HND Animal care student at Barony College, Dumfries.

In 2015, Meghan signed up for a project with the JMICAWE team - Vet Heather Bacon and Veterinary Nurse Hayley Walters, collaborating with the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU) in India - to showcase the value of compassionate and well-trained veterinary nurses The initiative has encouraged KVASU to start their own veterinary nursing training programme, and to improve the welfare of dogs and cats within its veterinary clinics (see photos above). On returning to the UK, Meghan wrote:

“At the moment there are no recognised veterinary nurses in India and we went over there to show them the amazing work we can do! Veterinary nurses are often the veterinary surgeon's right hand, we are friends to our clients and guardian angels to our patients. Although working in India proved to be a huge emotional roller-coaster, luckily the highs were just as intense as the lows. And our hopes came true earlier this week when it was announced that Kerala University have decided they definitely would like to introduce a veterinary nursing program and want to educate and train the very first veterinary nurses in India! So here’s to the future development of Indian Veterinary nurses and the long term improvement of animal care and welfare India wide!”

Meghan, a 26 year old veterinary nursing student, was tragically killed in a car accident last December as she drove to work, the day after her final veterinary nursing examination at Edinburgh Napier University. Meghan was the beloved daughter of Kevin and Lauren, loving sister of Jared and Ethan and dearly loved fiancée of Scot.

Meghan's philosophy on life

Monday, 3 July 2017

BVA Animal Welfare Foundation funds JMICAWE research

BVA Animal Welfare Foundation funds JMICAWE research

We are delighted that the BVA Animal Welfare Foundation ( has decided to fund a grant proposed by JMICAWE to identify the animal welfare priorities for the UK.

The research will use a social science technique, a Delphi analysis, to achieve consensus amongst experts on what are the most important animal welfare issues for the UK and to identify areas that should be the focus for further research.

Up for discussion in particular will be how we balance very severe animal welfare challenges (which may affect only a very small number of animals) against less severe issues (but where thousands or even millions of animals may be affected). We will be working with our animal welfare colleagues at SRUC, and with the University of Cambridge, as well as seeking a range of expert stakeholders across different industries and managed animal species and look forward to exploring the range of animal welfare issues that may be causing concern in the UK.  

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Welcome to Jess Davies, JMICAWE's new veterinary nurse

The Royal Highland Show is the highlight of the Scottish agricultural calendar. This year JMICAWE's veterinary nurse, Hayley Walters, was helping on the University of Edinburgh's stand chatting to the public about veterinary and animal welfare issues, promoting the work that the university does and the courses it offers. Joining her, and only two weeks in to her new job, was Hayley's maternity cover Jess Davies.

Jess has been veterinary nursing for 10 years and has previously worked at Cambridge Vet School, Dick White Referrals in Newmarket and volunteered for The Esther Honey Foundation on the South Pacific island of Rarotonga - the only clinic covering the whole of The Cook Islands and offering free veterinary care to all of its residents. Her patients included cats, dogs and goats and Jess was involved in training new veterinary nurses and supporting newly qualified vets.

'Having recently returned from travelling, working and volunteering overseas, I was ready for a new challenge once I returned to the UK. I am very happy to be in Edinburgh and feel privileged to be involved with the great work that JMICAWE does promoting the welfare of animals and assisting in the education of vets, students, and nurses in many different countries. Changing attitudes towards the way animals are treated, from the harmful use of live dogs and sheep used to teach surgical skills to vet students, to improving inpatient care in veterinary teaching hospitals via a veterinary nurse training programme, is an ongoing effort and I am very proud to be able to use my passion for animal welfare to contribute to this inspirational work.'

We are very pleased to have Jess join our team and her first project is to carry on helping The University of Peradeniya set up Sri Lanka's first ever veterinary nurse (VN) training programme. She will also be leading the project to create the accompanying inaugural Veterinary Nursing Skills Online Course, aimed at student VNs and lecturers working in countries that don't currently have a recognised VN training programme. We wish her all the best and Hayley too as she prepares to leave to have her first baby.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Animal Science in Perugia, Italy

Animal science in Perugia, Italy

Prof Cathy Dwyer attended the 22nd Congress of the Animal Science and Production Association of Italy as a guest speaker between 12th-16th June (

The meeting was held in the ancient and beautiful Umbrian city of Perugia, noted for its wine, jazz and chocolates! An important development of the society over the years has been an increase in the focus and presentation of papers on animal health and welfare, on a diverse range of species from fish, poultry, horses and rabbits to pigs and cattle.

Although somewhat hampered by her non-existent Italian language skills, Cathy learnt a lot about rabbit husbandry, horse-breeding, heat stress and cow calf behaviour in buffalo. She also attended a fascinating talk about the potential for insects to provide high protein food for animals and humans with a low carbon footprint. Of course, insects are already an important food source in free ranging poultry so this innovation may help to provide a more interesting and natural diet for chickens, whilst causing less ethical concerns than other protein sources for animal feeds. The acceptability of insect-based foods for humans is always an interesting discussion topic, with this being a normal food source in some countries and viewed with horror by others. But social science research presented at the congress suggested that, at least with younger Italian consumers, the idea of eating insects was viewed with interest and there was good acceptability at least for the idea. Earthworm burgers did not, however, feature on the Congress menu!   

Thursday, 22 June 2017

JMICAWE Director attends inaugural meeting of EU Animal Welfare Platform in Brussels

Inaugural meeting of the EU Animal Welfare Platform

The EU has developed a new body, the Animal Welfare Platform, as a forum to improve discussion and dialogue on animal welfare between the competent authorities (veterinarians with responsibility to deliver animal welfare improvement in each country), businesses that rely on animals, NGOs and animal groups and scientists.

The inaugural meeting of the platform was held in Brussels on 6th June, and JMICAWE Director, Prof Cathy Dwyer, was one of the small group of scientists from across Europe invited to take part as an independent expert. A particular focus for the platform discussions were around the enforcement of regulations for pig and poultry welfare, as well as discussions about other non-legislative methods to bring about improvements in animal welfare. In addition, how animal welfare standards in the EU can be rolled out to other countries was also an important discussion topic – which may have implications for the UK post-Brexit! However, in addition to pigs and poultry, other issues such as the welfare of small ruminants (sheep and goats), rabbits, horses and puppies were also raised.

Cathy says:

‘It is really good news that the EU has set up this platform and I hope that we can begin to see real change and progress as a result of this initiative. It was exciting to be present at the start of this venture and I look forward to active engagement on all areas of animal welfare policy. The international expertise of JMICAWE in engaging with other countries in animal welfare training and policy will be very important in the activities of the platform.’  

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

JMICAWE vet attends BVA Animal Welfare discussion day

British Veterinary Association's Animal Welfare discussion day highlights
 the vet’s responsibilities for safeguarding animal welfare

Last Monday the BVA’s Animal welfare foundation held their annual discussion day. Starting with a session on challenges for modern pets, speakers looked at the impact of brachycephaly and behaviour problems on the welfare of our companion animals, and the role of the vet in speaking out for animal welfare.

In the afternoon a panel of equine vets outlined the challenges of equine welfare in performance horses. There was a strong focus on welfare being assessed in terms of a horse’s fitness to work, and this contrasted clearly with the previous companion animal welfare session where behavioural and social needs had been considered alongside physical fitness.

The day ended with a session outlining AWF-funded research in production animals which was leading to improvements in welfare for sheep and dairy cattle, with a focus on changing traditional farming approaches to healthcare, in order to improve welfare.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month

Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month

May was veterinary nurse awareness month and a good time to re-emphasise how important a well-trained, compassionate veterinary nurse is in improving patient welfare in the clinic.

Veterinary nurses (VNs) are trained for a minimum of two years in the classroom and whilst in practice. They have many responsibilities and skills including care of all inpatients, anaesthetic monitoring, medication administration, blood sampling, X-raying, client education, equipment maintenance, laboratory tests, stock ordering and generally making the vet’s life a whole lot easier! They are a valued member of the veterinary team and contribute enormously to an animal’s positive experience whilst in the clinic.

Whilst veterinary nursing is a recognised profession in many countries around the world, there are many places where the role does not exist and the vet or a helper is expected to perform all of these tasks too. After the success of our two ‘Send a VN’ projects, in which we integrated British VNs into two vet schools in Sri Lanka and India for a week showcasing the  value and skills of a VN,  plans are now well underway in creating Sri Lanka and India’s first ever veterinary nurse training programme.

A VN training programme, run in country by existing local veterinary lecturers, that produced skilled and knowledgeable VNs would result in freeing veterinary doctors to concentrate on more in-depth clinical work, research and teaching and an improvement in patient welfare. Whilst VNs are instrumental in the smooth running of a clinic and are great value for money, it is important to understand that a VN cannot diagnose a patient, prescribe medicines or perform surgery. They act in a supportive role but only after direction from the veterinary doctor. That said, most vets who are used to working with VNs would be lost without a well-trained, skilled, caring nurse by their side and we hope to see this same kind of recognition from the training programmes!

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

JMICAWE Vet Heather Bacon speaks at AZEVN Congress on the importance of Vet Nurses

Delegates at The Association of Zoo and Exotic Veterinary Nurses (AZEVN) Congress 2017 heard how Vet Nurses have a key role to play in assessing and improving animal welfare.

Last week, more than 60 delegates from a range of nursing backgrounds gathered at Bristol Zoo to listen to The University of Edinburgh’s Heather Bacon as she used her keynote speech to explain how integral the role was in all veterinary facilities.

She also explored the difference between welfare and ethics and how as a human being one tends to decide what an animal is thinking, rather than being alert to their sentience.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Two JMICAWE courses win accolade from RSPCA & BSAS

Two leading courses in animal welfare education have been commended for their innovative approach.
The programmes have been praised for the role they have played in transforming the care of pets, livestock and wild animals worldwide for more than a quarter of a century.
They have also been lauded for improving the welfare of animals used in research.

Innovation award

The on-campus and online programmes have received the Innovative Developments in Animal Welfare Award from the British Society of Animal Science and the RSPCA.
We are committed to training the animal welfare leaders of the future and are thrilled that these programmes, run jointly with SRUC, have been recognised for their success.
Professor David ArgyleHead of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Heather Bacon presents at WAZA Global Zoo Animal Welfare Congress

Building on a recent MoA with the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria, Heather Bacon of the JMICAWE is currently in Detroit, USA to participate in the Global Zoo Animal Welfare Congress. The meeting – an invitation-only gathering of stakeholders from academic, NGO and zoological backgrounds – is focussing on developing a global commitment to animal welfare within the international zoo community.

Heather will present today as part of an expert panel on “Educating Zoo and Aquarium Professionals on Zoo Animal Welfare”, outlining the work she has done as part of her PhD research as well as practical educational workshops in partnership with zoo associations and NGOs around the world.

“It’s very exciting that the global zoo community is engaging with the subject of Zoo animal welfare” said Heather “International zoo standards vary greatly – in many countries zoos may act as consumers of wildlife rather than as conservation organisations, and animal welfare standards are incredibly variable. This meeting is an exciting opportunity to engage with professionals from around the world to further develop standards in zoo animal welfare.”

Prof Marc Bekoff giving his Keynote address

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Ceva Animal Welfare Awards 2017

We are waiting with bated breath this morning to see if any of our partners and collaborators were successful in last night's Ceva award ceremony at BSAVA Congress in Birmingham.

Heather and Hayley are both in attendance, but all the very best to Lesley Winton, Andrew Gardiner and Dogstar who were all finalists in the categories as detailed below:-

Monday, 3 April 2017

Seeing the Heat - Edinburgh Zoo - 5-7 April

Our colleagues at SRUC will be hosting an interactive workshop at the Edinburgh Zoo during Edinburgh’s International Science Festival on thermal imaging and how it can be used to improve animal health and welfare.  It is suitable for all ages from 5+.

It is a drop-in event from 11:00 to 15:00 and you will find them at the Budongo Trail. They would be very happy to see you there and to show you what this technology can do!

For more info:

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Truth about Cats and Dogs - Free Online Course

The University of Edinburgh has launched a new Massive Open-access Online Course: The Truth about Cats and Dogs.

In this course we provide 'an insight into cat and dog behaviour - through their eyes'. The course is divided into five topics: the appliance of science; behaviour and body language; senses and perception; challenges for the human-animal relationship, including pet problem behaviour; and how to improve the quality of life for cats and dogs in our care. By exploring how our pet cats and dogs perceive the world, we can gain a greater insight into their unique needs, and understand how to better provide for these needs, thus enhancing the important relationships that we have with our pet dogs and cats.

Sign-up now for the free online course (pay £39 ONLY if you want the certificate). Course starts 17 April. Register now

We look forward to you joining the course!

Monday, 20 March 2017

JMICAWE's vet nurse in Sri Lanka and India

JMICAWE's veterinary nurse Hayley Walters has just returned from a very successful meeting with leading faculty members from the Kerala Veterinary Animal Science University (KVASU).

Hayley and JMICAWE's vet Heather Bacon had previously been in Sri Lanka delivering CPD in inhalational anaesthesia to Charity partner Dogstar; and meeting with the University of Peradeniya in Kandy, Sri Lanka’s only vet school, to further enhance veterinary education in partnership with The University of Edinburgh.  Hayley then took the opportunity to meet with KVASU in India on her way home.

The aim of the meeting was to further discuss the introduction of a 12-month veterinary nursing programme at KVASU. Well-trained veterinary nurses provide the vital care a patient needs when it is sick and fearful in the clinic and can dramatically improve a patient’s welfare whilst reducing the workload of the veterinary surgeon, freeing him or her up to concentrate on more complex aspects of veterinary medicine.

KVASU currently has a 6-month programme that is practically taught and includes both large and small animal teaching with a focus on pharmacy, laboratory and reproduction.

A more small animal based programme, that included classroom teaching 2 hours a day as well as practical, on-the-job training, was agreed to be needed to help with vets treating India’s booming pet population.

A 12-stage plan is in place and on schedule with the next step being to identify what Indian vets think skills and knowledge a well-trained vet nurse should have to be of optimum benefit.

Teaching videos and handouts, specific to India, are also being developed by the JMICAWE team to help with the teaching of this new course.

Hayley said, “The 6 month course already trains some extremely dedicated and thoughtful students who either go on to be veterinary assistants or train further as livestock inspectors. With a focus on small animal training, we can ensure that dog and cat inpatients are receiving the best care possible whilst in the clinics from knowledgeable veterinary nurses who support the vet”.