the NEWS FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE
UF daiiy veterinarian's reputation as animal welfare advocate grows
BY SARAH CAREY
"raln Shearer, D.VM., is an innovator who has been honored by institutions ranging from the
USDA to the American Association of Bovine Practitioners to his alma mater, The Ohio
SState University, for his many contributions to agriculture and animal health. Whether in
the trenches teaching hoof care to dairy workers or suited up behind a podium lecturing on
bovine welfare, Shearer, the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine's dairy
extension veterinarian and chairman of the AABP's animal welfare committee, doesn't do
Geni Wren, editor and associate publisher of Bovine Veterinarian magazine, is one of them.
An admirer of Shearer's for some time, Wren approached him about a subject she felt needed to
be dealt with in her magazine euthanasia and personal beliefs.
"She came to me and said, we need to put together and discuss some bovine welfare issues,
and one pretty important topic is euthanasia," Shearer said. "So she sent me a few questions,
and I responded."
The result was a cover story titled "The Kindest Act" in the January issue of the publica-
tion, which also contained an editorial written by Wren. Both the article and the editorial
stressed that euthanasia, while an uncomfortable topic to many people, is a critical part of
"The hardest part of euthanasia is getting over the emotional aspect and coming to grips
with doing it," Shearer said. "This is about these cows we find on farms that often are down or
dying and the dairyman doesn't have the emotional strength to put them down because it's his
animal. We as vets need to step up to the plate and do it for them."
Shearer said he knows owners of large dairy cattle operations in Florida and elsewhere who
"The vet's responsibility is to look out for the
welfare of livestock; that's got to be paramount. My
objective is to share that message as best I can."
Dr. Jan Shearer
UF dairy cattle extension veterinarian
struggle with conducting euthanasia on their own animals.
"It's not something anyone wants to do, but it is what you have to do to relieve animal
suffering," Shearer said. "It's not always easy, but you have to be able to do it."
As a member of the college admissions committee, Shearer said he often asks prospective
students whether they are capable of conducting euthanasia if they have to.
"In reality, if you get into practice, you find that you are often in a position where it is
necessary to end a life, and not always for good, sound medical reasons," he said. "While
students need to learn how to save lives, it's absolutely essential that they know how to end it
when there is no medical means to relieve the suffering. Euthanasia is something we don't talk
about enough here."
So Shearer, who travels extensively as part of his extension responsibilities as well as in his
AABP role, takes his message on the road.
"I speak a lot of places and talk about it a lot, because I realize it's one of those things you
have to do," Shearer said.
He also sees bovine lameness and animal welfare as interrelated.
"Part of the problem is that livestock producers don't understand that prey animals like
cattle instinctively hide their pain and discomfort," he said.
"In working with lameness problems over the years, I've come to understand how good
these animals are at masking their pain. In the wild, prey animals that are injured or hurt are
going to be the first ones to get eaten, so cattle have a natural instinct to hide pain and
discomfort. Translating that information to dairymen and getting them to deal with lameness
Photo by Mark Hoffenberg
disorders more promptly is a very important message."
In January, Shearer spoke at Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine,
demonstrating hoof-trimming techniques to as many as 80 veterinary students and giving
lectures on lameness awareness and foot care. He's lectured on animal welfare at Cornell's Dairy
Institute and to its ethics class for freshman students. In February, he spoke to The Ohio State
University's Food Animal Club on euthanasia and welfare of cattle. Shearer plans to address
UF's food animal club about animal welfare issues later this month.
Part of what spurred Shearer to become such an advocate for better communication about
euthanasia was an article he read in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
in 2004 by Dr. Cydria Manette.
"What she pointed out, and what was so helpful, was how we deal with this issue as
veterinarians," Shearer said. "I used to go to the Humane Society many years ago to put
animals down who were unadoptable. I remember thinking, this isn't what I signed up for when
I became a vet. I had to make myself mechanical draw up the solution and find the vein and
block out all of the emotional issues to get it done. It's not easy to do when you're sitting there
looking at the puppy or kitten."
Coping techniques can include projection of negative feelings onto the animal to be
euthanized, and compartmentalizing to make the job "easier."
But is euthanizing an animal ever easy? Shearer said it isn't, nor should it be.
He said he asks food animal students how many have dealt with euthanasia and if the
matter bothers them.
See SHEARER, p.2
"If they say no, they probably shouldn't be here in vet med," Shearer said. "This profession
isn't for them. All of us have had to face the paradox of our roles; we nurture and care for our
animals knowing they will one day be slaughtered for food. Or, we must deal with the reality
that some pets are not adoptable and must be euthanized."
Therein lies the subject of an inner conflict that is so difficult, Shearer said.
"With respect to livestock, some of the conflict is fueled by anthropomorphism, which
through TV, movies, etc. has had tremendous influence on our thinking," he added. "It has
caused many of us to develop coping strategies such as misrepresentation and compartmental-
ization to accomplish unpleasant things. But as Manette points out, these coping strategies
rarely give us peace of mind, since they aren't authentic ways of dealing with this issue."
If there is a solution to the conflict posed by euthanasia, it might be the concept animal
welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University describes as "sacred ritual."
"A concept she uses is that all life has value and all life is important, and worthy of
dignity and respect," Shearer said. "She bows her head and says a little prayer when she goes to
a packing plant. It's a reverence for life, not in the religious sense, but more the sense that all
life is sacred."
These words of Albert Schweitzer resonate with Shearer: "To the man who is truly ethical,
all life is sacred, including that from which the human point of view seems lower. Man makes
distinctions, under the presence of necessity, as for example, when it falls to him to decide
which of two lives he must sacrifice in order to preserve the other. But through it all, he knows
that he bears the responsibility for the life that is sacrificed."
"We do our best to raise these animals up and make sure they are well cared for; that's our
role as vets," Shearer said. "When that day comes when euthanasia or slaughter is necessary
- we do our very best to make sure the process is as smooth and humane as can possibly be.
We don't treat these animals disrespectfully; we treat them with dignity all the way through.
"I know that I am still going to struggle, but knowing that I am treating them humanely
and with the respect they deserve authenticates my true feelings."
These days, Shearer spends about half of his time on his Master Hoof Care Program, for
which he was honored in 2003 by the USDA. The program offers training to dairy workers,
including farm health technicians, private claw trimmers and veterinarians from all over the
world. Its goal is to aid in the early detection and treatment of potential lameness disorders in
cattle, before problems become critical.
The remainder of his time is spent on his work in the animal welfare communication arena.
"The lameness issue has brought me to a greater sensitivity and awareness of animal
welfare issues," Shearer said. "It's something I couldn't have anticipated, but the last five to 10
years in particular, I've started to focus a lot more on these issues."
He added that when he started out in the field of food animal medicine years ago, the
primary objective in production veterinary medicine was to look out for the client's economic
"This was almost to the extent that this was the highest priority, while animal welfare was
somewhere second," Shearer said. "That's going to sound strange to some. But I see today that
this is becoming entirely different. What I try to share with people I work with today is that
those things need to be coupled.
"The vet's responsibility is to look out for the welfare of livestock; that's got to be
paramount" Shearer said. "My objective is to share that message as best I can. Improved
animal welfare and improved profitability; I think they can go hand in hand."
Veterinary surgery resident takes award for most
outstanding presentation during surgery society
university of Florida College of
Veterinary Medicine small animal
surgery resident Stanley Kim, B.VSc.,
received top honors for the most outstanding
resident presentation at this year's annual
Veterinary Orthopedic Society meeting, held
recently in Big Sky, Mont.
Kim's presentation dealt with the effect of
tibial plateau leveling osteotomy and tibial
tuberosity advancement two surgical
techniques used to correct tears of the cruciate
ligament in dogs on femoratibial contact
"Dr. Antonio Pozzi, assistant professor of
small animal surgery, who also gave an
excellent podium presentation and two posters
at the meeting, deserves a great deal of the
credit for Stan's success, as he provided
excellent mentorship through his graduate
research program," saidDanLewis, D.VM., a Dr. Stanley Kim
professor and UF small animal surgery resident
program coordinator. Lewis was also a
coauthor with Pozzi on Kim's paper.
Kim attended and presented his work as a recipient of one of the Veterinary Orthopedic
Society's Mark Bloomberg Awards, which provide financial support for deserving residents to
attend the meeting and present their research. The awards are based on a review of their
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"Olive's Way" benefit for UF veterinary
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cancer program raises $320,000
A benefit hosted March 11 in Boca
Raton by grateful clients of the
University of Florida Veterinary Medical
Center's oncology service raised $320,000 to
support cancer research and care for both
small and large animals affected by the
Lisa and Harry Posin, whose 4-year-old
Maltese, Olive, was successfully treated at UF
in 2007 for kidney cancer, organized and
underwrote the cost of the event. Recently the
-' I Posins, who live in Boca Raton, created a
program known as "Olive's Way" dedicated
to raising funds for UF's veterinary cancer
programs. All "Olive's Way" contributions go
directly to the college, earmarked to the
"Funds we raise will be used both to
support the UF oncology service's ongoing
efforts and to expand the research that this ,
world-class team performs," Harry Posin said. ,
"We fully believe that due to the severity of
Olive's illness and the complex nature of the M :1 oi, i s, e.lanlv 1e a ir,-, ai
surgery, had it not been for the skilled a re,.:.plcn held .n I B.: Raln i ,lM.:h 11 t.iIbv Lb iand
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oncology team at UF, we would likely have od,..--- vv.y .a I.r'.garamn dic:aled l, :upp.-rlin LIF
lost Olive on the operating table." ei.a, m ncoo.,qy ..:_
Olive underwent a complicated surgical
procedure that involved the removal of one kidney and a portion of her adrenal gland. She
subsequently has undergone eight chemotherapy treatments and has regained her strength and
normal body functions.
"The level of postoperative support to Olive, and to us, was beyond compare to any that we
have seen, whether animal or human," Posin added. "The sincerity to which the entire oncol-
ogy team cares for the patient is remarkable as well as their ongoing support and consultation
with our local oncologist."
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UF alumni visit veterinary college's disaster
response exhibit site Feb. 22 as part of weekend
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CVM volunteers participate
in Palm Beach County event
V volunteer veterinarians and cat lovers took a bite out of cat overpopulation during "Op
Around the Clock," a 24-hour neutering event for cats held in West Palm Beach in
,r hn. ,-,,,,-r...:.n i:.- -. -.,,,ii, ... ..i e t-,:,,-.-:n.,,,,_nr,:r,-, ,,, ,, 3 ,j .n i, ,, 3 ,+:,,,,,: ',' The event was the brainchild of animal control director Dianne Sauve and shelter veterinar-
.Pr, i ,ian Gloria Livadas, who sought a way to reduce the backlog of pet and feral cats awaiting
neutering surgery. Local veterinarians volunteered to help the shelter reach its goal of
sterilizing 400 cats in 24 hours.
Volunteers from UF veterinary college's Operation Catnip feral cat neutering program and
West End Animal Hospital in Newberry made the five-hour trip to to cover the 1 a.m shift
focusing on feral cats.
The team neutered more than 100 cats in five hours, bringing the clinic to an early
conclusion. When the counts were in, a total of 415 cats were neutered, setting what UF team
organizer Dr. Julie Levy believes is a world record for cat neutering.
"The Palm Beach team greeted us like royalty when we arrived around midnight," Levy
said. "The volunteers from Operation Catnip and West End Animal Hospital were thrilled to see
an animal control facility approaching the cat overpopulation problem with such a fun and
"We were proud to be invited to be a part of this ambitious undertaking and hope its
success will encourage other communities to embrace feral cat neutering as well," she added.
Gainesville veterinarian Debbie Cottrell of West End Animal Hospital, along with her
husband, Ian Cottrell, are active in Operation Catnip and made the trip to West Palm Beach as
"My husband and I were honored to be part of this team that helped another city in Florida
bring attention to the pet overpopulation problem," Cottrell said. "We were surprised at the
number of local private practitioners and technicians who volunteered to do four-hour surgery
.. ,- shifts in the middle of the night. What a cool bunch of people."
rn,,, r lh, I r.-. Pi ,,, r, Former UF veterinary hospital panther patient
Big Guy is focus of chapter in new children's book
new book titled "Florida's Famous
Animals," by writer J.G. Annino,
features a chapter devoted to the UF Veteri-
nary Medical Center's most famous panther
patient, Big Guy.
Hot off the press, the book is aimed at
children and features chapters devoted to 13
of the state's best known critters. One of them
is Big Guy, a then-3 year-old panther who
was treated at UF in 1984 after being found
clinging to life by a truck driver near the
The book details Big Guy's plight and the
care he received at UF and later at White Oak
Conservation Center inYulee. Mentioned are
several former UF veterinary team members,
including surgeons Jamie Bellah and Gayle
Donner; zoo medicine veterinarian George
Kollias; the late Dr. Mark Bloomberg and
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission
veterinarian Melody Roelke.
-. I_-,,r, r .-.11,, ,I ,H lir, ,Ji ._rh,,,, ,,_ r_ ,, -lLarryr ir, l .I r,1 ir-,I I, Larry Lansford, a communications
6 h.., :..-,e.,_I, r.-I,,-e -- Tr, r-, :,n--e .IrL,,rne ,,,J i,r,,i..:e .:r,,:,r_..- e ,r ,n, ir, e.- L ,, :,r,,n.,J specialist who worked at the CVM for a time
,Pr.L,,.. i, 5 ,r : ,-e,, rand is now at the UF College of Education,
provided the photo of Big Guy used in the chapter.
Big Guy left UF for further rehabilitation at White Oak, which is where he lived out his
days before dying at 13 years of age.
Copies of the book are available at www.globepequot.com for $9.95.