Student training in large-animal handling at the School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University, Australia.J Vet Med Educ. 2007 Winter; 34(5):576-82.JV
The ability to handle animals safely, competently, and with confidence is an essential skill for veterinarians. Poor animal-handling skills are likely to compromise credibility, occupational health and safety, and animal welfare. In the five-year veterinary science degree at Murdoch University, animal handling is taught in a prerequisite unit in the second semester of the second year. From 2008, however, this unit will be taught in the first year of the five-year course. Students are taught to handle sheep, cattle, pigs, and horses safely and competently. Each student receives 30 hours of formal practical instruction. Animal-to-student ratios are 2:1, and staff-to-student ratios vary from 1:8 (sheep, cattle, horses) to 1:17 (pigs). Students must pass the practical exam to proceed into third year. Additional experience with animals is gained during third year (14 hours of practical instruction with sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle) and during the 5 weeks and 2 days of vacation farm experience during the second and third years. In the fourth and fifth years, students consolidate their handling experience with sheep (including rams), goats, pigs, cattle (including bulls), horses (including stallions), and alpacas. As a result, students are able to handle and restrain client animals with confidence. There is no formal course in small-animal handling at Murdoch University. Factors that have enhanced the success of the large-animal handling program include purpose-built on-campus facilities. Inadequate resources (time, facilities, and animals) remain the main impediment to effective learning, further compounded by the increasing tendency of university administrators to make decisions based on economic expediency rather than educational benefit.