Queensland Times; Melanie Maeseele | 21st December 2010
THE University of Queensland has defended the euthanising of abandoned pets by veterinary students at its Gatton campus.
The university is now the last in Australia to allow students to practise surgery on healthy, live animals which are subsequently destroyed.
More than 3000 animals have been transferred to the UQ campus from Logan City Council’s pounds in recent years, but precise figures on how many have been put down have not been revealed.
UQ’s head of veterinary science, Professor Jonathan Hill, claimed students only performed surgery on animals destined to be put down in any case.
“Students perform surgery on animals that have been previously deemed unsuitable for re-homing and are to be euthanised by council,” he told The Queensland Times.
But animal rights campaigner Simone Hewitt, who used to work at Logan pound, said UQ’s stance was indefensible.
“As an ex-worker of Logan Pound I was specifically instructed by the university to supply dogs of specific weights and sex for their drug trialling,” she said.
“What they are doing is inhumane; there is no other way to describe it.”
Ms Hewitt said she believed the council could be doing much more to find homes for abandoned pets. Ipswich City Council and Brisbane City Council do not transfer unwanted animals to UQ.
The policy has caused division among veterinary students.
UQ Veterinary Students Association former president and fifth-year veterinary student Phil Kowalski said: “Working on animals is absolutely beneficial to our learning.
“It helps us save more animals in the long term. It’s a great privilege for us to operate on these animals.”
Mr Kowalski said the surgery could be “confronting” but “benefits thousands of other animals”.
“I don’t think what we are doing is inhumane because we don’t cause pain and suffering to the animal,” he said. “The last thing they see before they are put to sleep is a vet science student playing with them.”
But another student, who wished to remain anonymous, condemned the killing of animals.
“It’s so upsetting to see their sad faces looking at you for the last time,” she said.
“I wanted to be a vet to help animals, not to put them through unnecessary pain just for our own benefit.”
RSPCA spokeswoman Lisa Chalk said her organisation supported an end to the use of animals for veterinary study.
“There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that training vet students in a non-recovery situation does result in them not giving the animals the same care as they would to an animal that does have the chance of survival,” Ms Chalk said.
HOPE FOR SOME
Through UQ’s Pets-for-Life Animal Adoption Program, some cats and dogs have a chance to be saved
The program attempts to match surrendered animals with new families
On average UQ receives about 850 animals a year
The School of Veterinary Science has re-homed 141 animals in 2009/2010 and currently has 32 dogs and 19 cats waiting to be re-homed
To adopt a pet visit http://www.uq.edu.aU/vetschool or phone 5460 1868