- Animal Welfare Application & Assessment
Dr. Janice Siegford, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal Science at Michigan State, teaches several animal welfare courses during the academic year.
Among the courses taught at MSU is Applied Animal Behavior, ANS 305. Though the course is geared towards animal science students who tend to have a pre-veterinary focus, Dr. Siegford stressed that anyone who is interested in animal production, the study of wild animals in captivity, and the domestic animal industry should consider taking the course as well. "If you are dealing with animals you should have an understanding of behavior so that you're able to respond to your animals appropriately," said Siegford.
The course focuses on several aspects of animal behavior and welfare, including teaching the principles behind animal behavior, the domestication of species, the study of behavioral science and evolution shapes behavior among other things. The course also emphasizes specific species' behavior and basic animal training skills.
Students will receive hands-on experience through several trips scheduled to the campus farms as well as trips to Potter Park Zoo for demonstrations of environmental enrichment. Students will conduct experiments on site, with the hopes that they will be able to collect usable data. "The goal of this course is to provide students with very practical management-based application for their new knowledge of animal behavior," said Siegford. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to observe animal behavior through video footage of several species of animals.
Siegford also teaches Animal Welfare Assessment, ANS 805, a graduate level course offered online which can be taken for credit through Michigan State by both MSU and non-MSU students.
The course's objective is to provide graduate and veterinary students with high-quality didactic content and the opportunity to objectively assess animal welfare. Students are able to assess animals in their environment through the use of virtual tools that allow them to "go" to multiple farms and compare and contrast them. Since the welfare of an animal can be subjective, the course enlisted a panel of experts to develop a gold standard of animal welfare. Students compare their assessment to those of the panel, and are graded on their understanding of welfare sciences as well as the strength of their argument, thereby emphasizing critical thinking and reasoning.
Because the course is offered online, students are able to get unique access to a broad network of animal welfare professionals and researchers. "We were able to get a slew of great people who are really well-respected in their field," said Siegford.
Among the experts available to the students are Professor Donald Broom and Professor David Fraser, two men who are considered the fathers of animal welfare. "It's a really great collaborative course with a worldwide component."
- Zoo Animal Welfare
MSU also offers courses which deal in part with animal welfare in the zoo and aquarium environment. Dr. Richard Snider, an MSU zoology professor who teaches zoo animal welfare, explains that it's important to look at the welfare of captive animals because the treatment of the animal often has a great impact on their health. "We're concerned about the treatment of animals, and are looking at ways to enrich the lives of captive animals in order to help relieve unnecessary stress," said Snider.
Currently, the captive animal industry is slowly moving to better animal welfare due in large part to the fact that accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which sets certain standards based on animal management and care, is becoming more important to zoos and aquariums. As a result, animals in captivity are living a healthier life than ever before, said Snider.
Because industry is beginning to focus on the welfare of captive animals, there is a great need for students who are interested in learning about stress therapy for these animals. As a result, the Animal Behavior and Welfare Group at MSU has received a lot of attention both from potential students and from other universities who are starting up similar programs. "It's exciting from our standpoint and from the student's standpoint," said Snider.
- Center for Zoo Animal Welfare