WCVM graduate earns animal welfare award

Dr. Carol Morgan (WCVM ’88)

Dr. Carol Morgan’s (WCVM ’88) efforts to improve the lives of animals have stemmed from an interest that’s been a part of her life as long as she can remember.

“I remember always being interested in animals and always wanting to be around them,” says Morgan, a veterinarian based in Victoria, B.C. “I think that I was just born this way.”

Morgan’s longtime dedication to animal welfare was recently recognized when the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) awarded her the 2011 Frederic McGrand Award for Excellence in Animal Welfare. Presented at the British Columbia SPCA Wild Arc Rehabilitation Centre’s annual fundraiser gala on November 5, 2011, the prestigious award recognizes her outstanding contributions to animal welfare in Canada.

Although Morgan’s parents weren’t very animal oriented, they wanted their children to receive a university education, so turning her interest into a career in veterinary medicine was just a natural progression. After completing a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, she worked at practices in Ontario for two years before moving to B.C. where she worked in locum positions at a variety of clinics.

During this time, Morgan became interested in the different ways in which veterinarians approached animal welfare. She recalls seeing the diversity in the way they thought about animal welfare, the way they handled their patients, and the way they responded to competing needs of both their patients and their clients.

“It made me curious as to how some veterinarians thought completely differently from what I did, even though we had quite similar backgrounds and had sometimes even gone to school together,” says Morgan.

That curiosity prompted her to take philosophy classes in ethics at the University of Victoria and sparked a further interest in animal ethics that led to her pursuing an interdisciplinary PhD with the W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics and the Animal Welfare Program at the University of British Columbia.

Morgan’s research, which focused on the ways in which veterinarians negotiate competing responsibilities to patients and to clients, resulted in a framework describing how they differ and how they think about their responsibilities with respect to animal welfare.

Her findings reinforced her belief that veterinarians have a responsibility to promote animal welfare for both their patients and the public in general. “I see professions as callings,” she explains, “and I think it’s our responsibility as veterinarians to play a leadership role.”

Morgan is heartened by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s recent efforts to develop a specific curriculum as well as specialties that focus on animal welfare – incentives that will increase the attention paid to welfare issues.

In the meantime, she has been leading by example. A member of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) code development process, Morgan sits as the animal welfare representative on two committees that include producers, meat processors and transport experts. Together they’re developing codes of practice for the care of farm animals in Canada.

As a member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Committee, she has worked on developing a poster that veterinarians can display in their offices to educate their clients about unnecessary cosmetic surgery performed on companion animals.

“A lot of people don’t know, for example, that dogs with docked tails aren’t born that way. Their tails are cut off. It’s a way of helping people who are purchasing a puppy to decide if that’s what they want for their dog or not,” Morgan explains. “It’s a breed standard issue as opposed to a health issue.”

In other work with the CVMA Animal Welfare Committee, Morgan has helped to develop position statements affecting both large and small animals. In addition to developing kennel and cattery codes of practice, they have developed a variety of guidelines and standards that address the welfare, treatment and care of animals along with educational materials for veterinarians that promote pains mitigation for routine procedures.

Morgan also chairs the animal welfare committee for the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia (CVBC) and is involved in a number of their projects. Her passion for animal welfare has led to countless hours of volunteer work with a variety of other national and provincial committees and boards including the Canadian Council on Animal Care and the BC SPCA.

While proud of all that has been accomplished, Morgan says she was surprised and humbled to hear that she was being honoured by the CFHS. She was also very happy to receive the award and says when it comes to animal welfare issues, it’s not about revolution; it’s evolution.

“It’s exciting times right now for animal welfare, and I’m glad that I was part of it. I think it’s our jobs as veterinarians. If we aren’t focused on animal welfare, then there’s something wrong. I’m just happy that we’re starting to accept how important it is.”

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