DEAR DR. FOX: I am a retired high school biology teacher, and I do student career counseling now. I am a longtime reader of your column, and if you think it appropriate, please share what motivated you to take the career path you have taken to help animals. -- Y.S., Washington, D.C.
DEAR Y.S.: I think many readers will already guess my reasons, but I'm happy to answer. It may help young people find a path for their lives if they are inspired by passion, directed by reason and enriched by their education and life experiences. I started "seeing practice" in my early teens, helping out at a veterinary hospital and later doing farm work. Young people can also gain experience as animal shelter and wildlife rehabilitation volunteers.
My childhood curiosity, love of nature and animals and concern for the harms and suffering caused by my own kind became my lifetime's avocation. I always questioned consensus values and attitudes, as well as the conventions of what I was told were of a "civilized" society, but that I saw as barbaric when it came to accepted cruel treatments of animals. These include wild animals trapped for their fur, purebred dogs kept in small cages by puppy mill breeders and the billions of animals raised for human consumption on factory farms.
I am heartened by the fact that humane and environmental education courses are available, and animal rights and environmental ethics have become mainstream in college curriculums. Infusing the next generation with the sensitivities of reason and compassion will help restore civilization!
DEAR DR. FOX: I am at a veterinary college after graduating from a small college during which time my mother sent me your columns. They motivated me to become a vet!
One of my professors said he thinks you are against the profession, and I told him he's wrong. What do you have to say to that? -- Vet Student, Fort Myers, Fla.
DEAR VET STUDENT: During the 1970s through the early '90s, I was frustrated by what I interpreted as inertia by my colleagues when I appealed to them to assert their professional authority in the sectors of laboratory and farmed animal care and welfare. In hindsight, I realize that reason and ethics alone cannot bring change when money and vested interests rule and the sound advice of concerned veterinarians is ignored. Until recently, I was lambasted by some veterinarians for my concerns over many manufactured cat and dog foods -- some of which they were selling -- and giving animals too many vaccinations. These and other concerns are documented in my book, "Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health." This is free for vet students with a student membership with the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.
Today I see the veterinary profession as being essential to the advancement and functional integrity of every community and nation, playing an increasingly important role from the One Health perspective. As I see it, a world without animals is unthinkable, and a world without veterinarians is dysfunctional. Good luck in your career!
ONLINE PET SALES TO BE REGULATED
There's not much good news for commercially exploited animals in these times, but one ray of hope comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Welfare Act enforcement division that has closed an inspection loophole for Internet-based dog breeders. A reported 80 percent of breeders investigated who sell via the Internet were not being inspected to ensure the animals' health and humane treatment. I have long urged prospective puppy purchasers to never take this route when considering getting a purebred or "designer" pup, even if it comes with American Kennel Club papers. Never buy a dog sight unseen, and try to see the parents, too! Traditional brick and mortar pet stores will continue to be exempt from federal licensing and inspection, which is regrettable. For details, visit http://goo.gl/dgcPXd.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)