Massey de-sexing clinic receives national award

(Left) Dr Carolyn Gates with the 500th patient and Bachelor of Veterinary Science students Emily Ball and Juyoung Park.

A de-sexing programme run by Massey University and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has won a national award for its clinic which combines teaching and a community-service. 

The Massey-SPCA De-sexing Clinic was selected as the recipient of the inaugural Aotearoa New Zealand John Schofield Three Rs Implementation Award.

The award winners are decided by the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC), which aims to celebrate achievement in the development and implementation of the “Three Rs” (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement). These are guiding principles for the ethical use of animals in research, testing, and teaching.

The Massey programme was chosen for showing great commitment to implementing these principles. It has been providing discounted de-sexing surgeries for community service card holders, and reached an impressive milestone of 500 surgeries in August.

Headed by Dr Carolyn Gates, of the School of Veterinary Science, the clinics have been running on Saturdays and Sundays at the Massey Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The SPCA in Palmerston North maintains the waiting list of clients and Massey provides the facilities, equipment and veterinary staff. To date, more than 225 students have been involved and 560 cats de-sexed.

All Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) and Bachelor of Veterinary Technology (BVT) students can help out in various roles based on their experience level. These range from administrative and assistant roles for first year students (responsible for client communication, patient restraint, and medical record keeping) to anaesthesia and spay surgeon roles for fourth and fifth-year BVSc students.

NAEAC Chair Grant Shackell says the clinic was an obvious choice. “The clinic has achieved a number of successful outcomes since it was launched over a year ago,” he says. “There has been a reduction in the number of animals used for clinical training. The de-sexing programme has had a positive animal welfare impact, reducing the number of unwanted kittens. The clinic has also helped to raise awareness of the Three Rs.”

Dr Kat Littlewood, a volunteer veterinarian at the clinic and postgraduate student at the School of Veterinary Science, received the $5,000 award on behalf of the clinic at a meeting in Wellington earlier today.

This is one of two awards launched by NAEAC in July this year. The awards are funded by AgResearch, the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching, Lincoln University, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, Massey University, University of Otago and Victoria University of Wellington.

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