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Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

April 12, 2007

Conference to Explore Animal Welfare During Crisis, Pandemics

Saving lives and reducing suffering is the No. 1 priority of emergency workers following a hurricane, tsunami or flu outbreak. But what if those lives come wrapped in fur or feathers?

An international symposium being held at the University of Guelph April 29 to May 1 will examine how pandemics and natural disasters affect animals and their caregivers, and how to raise awareness and consider animal welfare during such crises.

The "Caring During Crisis: Animal Welfare During Pandemics and Natural Disasters" conference will feature top international experts speaking on a range of topics. It’s expected to draw about 200 delegates from Canada and abroad.

There will be internationally-recognized speakers from Canada, the United States and Europe. They will discuss lessons learned following hurricane Katrina in 2005 and hurricane Floyd in 1999, the 2004 avian flu outbreak in British Columbia, and the 2001 outbreak of foot- and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom.

“These events caused a lot of human suffering, but a lot of animal suffering as well," said symposium committee chair Prof. Suzanne Millman of the Department of Population Medicine.

She added that failing to consider animal welfare may actually hinder human rescue and relief efforts. “After hurricane Katrina, people were reluctant to leave their homes because they had to leave their pets behind.”

Emergency workers must address people's needs first, Millman said, "but you can't consider humans completely independently from animals."

The April 29 opening session will feature talks by Michael Appleby, welfare policy adviser for the World Society for the Protection of Animals in London, and James Young, special adviser to Canada’s deputy minister for public safety and emergency preparedness.

Appleby will discuss “Why Should We Care About Animals During Times of Crisis?” and Young will speak on “Weighing in Public Health and Safety Factors for Humans During Times of Crisis.” Their talks will begin at 3 p.m. in Rozanski Hall.

Sunday’s sessions are free and open to the general public. Monday and Tuesday’s sessions are open to conference registrants only, and information about registration is available online.

On April 30 and May 1, panel discussions will cover a range of topics. Monday’s speakers include William Stokes of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, who co-ordinated shelter and veterinary care for thousands of companion animals rescued from New Orleans after hurricane Katrina in 2005, and Sebastian Heath of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Homeland Security.

Among the speakers for Tuesday are Carin Wittnich of the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, who is a professor in the departments of surgery and physiology at the University of Toronto and director of U of T's cardiovascular sciences collaborative program. She is also a 1976 graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College and the OVC Alumni Association's 2005 Distinguished Alumna. Among others, she will be joined on the panel by Brian Evans, chief veterinary officer for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Conference organizers hope policy-makers and stakeholders will develop ideas to address animal welfare in emergency response plans at local, national and international levels. The proceedings will be published later this year as a special issue of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.

The "Caring During Crisis” conference is sponsored by the Ontario Veterinary College, the Ontario Agricultural College and the Colonel K.L. Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare at U of G, with associate sponsorship by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

For more information, call 519-824-4120, Ext. 53677 or visit the conference website.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982.

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