Recently, NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine has fallen under heavy charges for many Animal Welfare Act violations. The accusations may be true, but I am getting a sense that the “there are two sides to the truth” scenario is applicable here.
Stated in the Technician article above, on May 11, three animals were euthanized due to improper care and handling from not only the staff, but the students as well. A horse was euthanized due to failure of recognizing the symptoms of a bladder stone, later being diagnosed when it was too late. A ferret was euthanized after a prolonged surgery, and a rabbit was euthanized due to improper handling leading to a broken spine. These violations were not the only ones. Back in 2021, three violations were reported; one regarding no shelter or shade for horses in a pasture.
The violations are serious — grim, even. I personally can’t speak for the horse or the ferret, but I can speak for the rabbit. I worked at a veterinary hospital for over two years before returning to school. I can disclose that no matter how prepared, trained or experienced you are, handling a rabbit is like rolling the dice.
Rabbits are notorious for back injuries that can happen at any time, even at home in the hands of the owner. Some rabbits are great to handle, while some can unexpectedly thump their hindlegs to get away from you, which can cause back injuries. I know I held my breath every time I restrained a rabbit for a veterinarian.
I couldn’t imagine being a student who may or may not have much experience working with animals yet holding a rabbit for their very first time, or even for the third or fifth time. Although the students are trained and have demonstrations on restraint, you never truly learn until you get practiced, hands-on experience. Even then, you’ll always learn something new down the line.
It takes time to pick up on restraint tactics that work best for you and the animal. It takes time to adjust to countless protocols and procedures. There’s also such a thing as human error and the unexpected when it comes to diagnosing and surgery. I doubt the staff and students at the veterinary school are walking around heartless, or taking this as a joke. Having worked in a veterinary hospital I also can imagine the complexity of the vet staff and students’ workdays, especially with studies and research added on top of it all.
Since I don’t believe the staff and students are heartless or even careless individuals, it leads me to wonder the truth behind the three incidents. PETA’s declaration that the school should lose their license is putting the school in a sticky predicament, and it would be best to hear the whole story from the school itself before jumping to conclusions.
Mike Charbonneau, director of marketing and communications in the College of Veterinary Medicine, only made a statement to CBS17 regarding the euthanized horse, saying it was an “isolated incident” and because of it they are “strengthening procedures and requirements for daily health monitoring.” Personally, I don’t think this is enough of an explanation to put the violations at rest or prove there will be changes made to better the staff, students and animals. If anything, the college needs to come out and talk about all violations publicly, even the past violations from 2021 to show genuine concern for improving their procedures and requirements.
In life, if you don’t say anything at all, then you are putting yourself immediately at fault with room for others to fill in the missing pieces. Even if the staff and students are entirely at fault, exposing the truth publicly can signify a deep understanding of the issue at hand and lead into the right course of action to improve upon the mistakes made.
At any point in time, and in any field of work or study, acting upon mistakes made always leads to a successful resolution. This would be a good place to start for College of Veterinary Medicine.