Friday, 29 April 2016

EDCH partnership benefits animals and students

The Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home has a long-standing relationship with the R(D)SVS. Founded in 1883, the home offers shelter to any dog or cat needing a refuge, actively reuniting lost animals with their owners, and rehoming stray animals where possible. The Home also offers a unique teaching and learning experience for our vets of the future, allowing them access to understand more about dog and cat behaviour, health and welfare.

At the JMICAWE we’re very excited to be working with the EDCH on a new project in dog behaviour and handling, to support volunteers and new staff in their interactions with dogs at the shelter. This collaboration will allow staff and volunteers at the Home to further develop their skills in dog behavioural assessment, and provide students on our MSc and UG teaching programmes with experiences of ‘real-life’ shelter situations.

Additionally two of the JMICAWE staff, Hayley and Heather, are joining with other colleagues at the R(D)SVS as part of the University’s ‘Big Leap’ initiative to fundraise for the EDCH by climbing the equivalent height of the UK’s 3 peaks in 6 hours at the CSE. This will be a marathon 1 climb every 6 minutes per person for 6 hours! 

Please help us to support the great work of the EDCH, and sponsor us in this exhausting venture at

You can learn more about the EDCH at:

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

JMICAWE vet to speak at Nuremberg Conference 3-5 May on welfare indicators in zoo and aquaria species

Heather Bacon is giving a presentation at next week's Conference in Tiergarten Nuremberg on the "Assessment of Welfare of Marine Mammal Species in Zoological Parks".  Nuremberg Zoo is one of the largest zoological parks in Europe and is home to about 250 special of animals, including five species of marine mammals.

In co-operation with the European Parliament Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development, the workshop objectives are to review scientific studies relevant to assessment of wild animal welfare in zoos, and to evaluate to extent to which known indicators can be applied and adapted to evaluate welfare in a zoological park setting with a focus on marine mammals.

Follow this link for more information:-

Thursday, 21 April 2016

First IAWEL graduate's dissertation on cat behaviour published


Students undertaking the Masters degree in International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law know that we have high hopes for them to publish their work if possible. We had our first ever graduates last November and we are pleased to report that less than six months later, we have the first full publication from a dissertation.

The programme team offer our hearty congratulations to IAWEL graduate Emma Desforges who has published her dissertation on improving housing environments for cats involved in feeding studies. She used her understanding of cat behaviour to develop an enrichment device from a set of household shelves. This allowed group-housed cats the opportunity to use vertical space, hide away from other cats and reduce agonistic behaviours.

You can access the paper using the following link:

Fig. 1

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Equine Welfare Conference - 20th April

JMICAWE's Director Professor Nat Waran and her colleague Gemma Pearson from the Royal (Dick) Vet Equine Hospital are both presenting at a conference tomorrow in Aberdeenshire highlighting the welfare challenges facing Scotland's equines.

Co-hosted by the British Horse Society Scotland, World Horse Welfare and the Scottish Government, the event is a sell-out, with delegates coming from right across the UK.  Professor Waran's talk " Are horses happy athletes?" and Gemma Pearson's presentation on horse handling, welfare and behaviour are both fully booked.

Shannon Horse Project - animal welfare in the traveller community

The following article appeared in February in ‘The Clare People’, a local newspaper in Shannon, Ireland.

Shannon Equine Research

Members of the Traveller community in Clare are set to participate in a major equine research project headed up by the Shannon Horse Project. Shannon Horse Project has teamed up with the University of Edinburgh in Scotland to carry out the study, which will look at the system used to assess a horse’s body condition. The body condition scoring system is a numerical scale used to evaluate the amount of fat on a horse’s body through visual and palpation appraisal. Based on a grading system, the scoring system is a good indicator of a horse’s general health.

Shannon woman Marie Rowland is currently studying for a Masters in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and is working with the project to complete her dissertation. Marie’s project supervisor is Dr Tamsin Coombs, (Programme Co-ordinator for the MSc) who coincidentally graduated from the University of Limerick in 1999 with a BSc (Hons) in Equine Science, before going on to further study at the University of Edinburgh.

The study consists of two parts; firstly, attitudes to body condition scoring and other equine issues were explored and secondly, the group condition scored their horses. This is the first scientific study to include Irish Travellers as participants in equine research. According to Marie, the Traveller community have a long history and tradition of keeping horses but there is little research or consultation with Traveller horse owners on equine related matters. Therefore, Traveller representation will provide scientific research with an innovative approach to equine health and welfare.

The research will be completed in April 2016.

Friday, 15 April 2016

JMICAWE Vet wins International welfare award

JMICAWE Vet wins International welfare award

The JMICAWE is delighted to announce that our own Heather Bacon is this year’s recipient of the Chris Laurence Vet of the Year award, sponsored by CEVA and the Veterinary Times
Heather leads education programmes to improve the care of animals around the world in her role as Veterinary Welfare Education and Outreach Manager in the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, and was selected for the award award in recognition of her commitment to the continued improvement of animal welfare.
Heather was also one of the final three vets shortlisted out of over 7,000 for the PetPlan vet of the year award.
Heather said “I’m delighted to receive this award – it’s a huge honour, in light of the amazing work being done by vets around the world. The CEVA welfare awards are a fantastic opportunity to showcase the hard work being done by a whole range of people from volunteers to professionals, all over the world and I’m so excited that animal welfare work is being increasingly recognised as important to the work of veterinary professionals.”

See Heather's interview here:

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Paws for Progress

Animal Assisted Interventions that Benefit Humans and Animals

Last month Dr Amy Miele, Coordinator and Lecturer for our new distance learning MSc in Clinical Animal Behaviour ( had the pleasure of attending a fundraising event organised by Tynewater Dog Training on behalf of Paws for Progress. As Amy is currently developing our new Anthrozoology course, she is very interested to hear about projects that use an evidence based approach to animal assisted interventions, and Paws for Progress is a perfect example of this.

Paws for Progress is a not for profit organisation dedicated to enhancing the wellbeing of people and animals through positive human animal interactions. One of their pioneering projects is the Dog Training Rehabilitation Programme, which was established in collaboration with the Scottish Prison Service in 2011. This programme involves pairing students from the Young Offenders Institution in Polmont, Scotland, with rescue dogs from local dog rescue organisations. The young men learn to train these dogs using positive reinforcement techniques, which greatly improves their own behaviour and future employment options, as well as being of obvious benefit to the dogs. The dogs show improved behaviour and wellbeing, and are also provided with an increased chance of successful adoption.

Paws for Progress also work with various other groups in the community, including young people with additional support needs who struggle to engage in education. These positive human animal interactions can help to build confidence and develop social skills as well as enhance mood and wellbeing.

To find out more about the work that Paws for Progress do, visit their website at

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Management of geriatric animals in zoos

This week has seen several articles in the press on the topic of geriatric animal management in zoos, an issue which our own Heather Bacon has presented on at a number of international conferences.

Improved zoo animal husbandry and healthcare is playing a key role in increasing the longevity of some species housed in zoos. Attention towards zoo animals is often focussed on charismatic species, but as veterinarians we have a duty to provide excellent standards of health care and welfare to a large variety of taxa including invertebrate, amphibian and reptile species, and this poses unique professional and ethical challenges. In general there is a contrast between human medicine where there is considerable effort to prolong life even at a temporary welfare cost, and veterinary work where the priority of any intervention is about its immediate welfare impact, both on the individual animal’s welfare state, and the potential welfare impacts on other members of the group in social species. Many age-related changes in zoo animals have parallels in our domestic pets and even in the human population. These chronic and progressive disease syndromes will often be managed by medical treatments, specific husbandry changes and close monitoring, to ensure that the individual animal’s quality of life remains good.

Ensuring good animal welfare is an essential foundation of the modern zoo, and a primary responsibility of all veterinary surgeons in the UK. The Five welfare provisions for zoo animals are set down in the Secretary of State’s standards of modern zoo practice. Zoos need healthy, stable and reproductively fit populations with adequate genetic diversity and experiencing good animal welfare, to make a meaningful and sustainable contribution to conservation of species in their care, and also to ensure a positive visitor experience. Additionally veterinary surgeons have a professional and ethical obligation to “make animal welfare their overriding consideration at all times”. It is important that the zoo community and veterinary profession continue to work towards meeting the unique challenges created by geriatric zoo animal management.

Heather examines a geriatric bear at a zoo in Europe

Monday, 4 April 2016

Animal Welfare teaching under review at R(D)SVS

Here at the R(D)SVS we’ve seen an increase in both the animal behaviour and animal welfare teaching delivered to our undergraduate veterinary students over the last five years. Building on the expectations of the BVA’s animal welfare strategy and BVA/RCVS ‘Vet Futures’ report, we have recently reviewed the teaching delivered to ensure that we’re equipping our ‘future vets’ with the best possible animal welfare, ethics and behaviour teaching.

To this end, and with the support of the Learning and Teaching committee, we’ll be setting up a committee to further explore the teaching that we deliver in these subject areas, as well as evaluating our ‘hidden’ curriculum to ensure that as much as possible we ‘practice what we teach’.

We’re very excited about revamping our curriculum in this challenging and expanding field of scientific enquiry, and are grateful to the staff and students at the R(D)SVS that are supporting this venture. Heather Bacon at JMICAWE, who is leading the project, said “ For years in veterinary teaching,  animal welfare and ethics has been delivered as a ‘stand-alone’ subject, often covering quite ‘dry’ aspects of science, whilst animal behaviour is often under-taught despite this being an area that almost all vets in practice will need to advise on. By taking an integrated approach, we hope to make these subjects as clinically relevant and consistent as possible throughout our curriculum, empowering our students with the clinical reasoning and ethical decision-making skills to engage in this often tricky subject area.”