Inside the WSAVA

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Meet Melinda Merck, Co-Chair of the WSAVA Animal Wellness and Welfare Committee (AWWC)

Melinda is a forensic veterinarian and ran her own feline practice for 17 years. She lives in Austin, Texas, USA, and has a rescue cat and dog. As Co-Chair of the AWWC, she is currently working with the rest of the Committee to finalize the WSAVA’s Animal Welfare Guidelines. They will be launched at WSAVA World Congress 2018 in Singapore. We asked her about her work.


What is a forensic veterinarian?

My work focuses on the use of forensics and veterinary science in legal cases involving animals. I consult with prosecutors, defense attorneys, investigators and veterinarians on cases which sometimes includes trial testimony. I travel, both within the US and abroad, giving lectures to the same audience. I often travel to work on cases, typically large-scale cases, such as those involving dog fighting. I also work in disaster response and recently travelled to Houston and Atlanta to assist with animal evacuees from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Every day is different!


You have a keen interest in animal welfare. How did this come about?

As a child, I remember finding a Beagle at the side of the road. It had been hit by a car. I remember yelling at the adults to do something but it was a stray and no one would so I stayed with him and kept the flies off his face until he died. I vowed then that I would always help animals and save them if I could. I have always worked with local shelters and helped to set up a cat shelter in Atlanta.


What does your role as Co-Chair of the WSAVA Animal Wellness and Welfare Committee involve?

We have a great group of experts from around the world. Each of them takes lead on particular projects. I help to keep us organized and heading in the same direction. I also facilitate communication to ensure we are following our strategic plan.


What are the key issues in animal welfare currently?

There are so many that we have to give careful consideration to our priorities. Our members attend the annual ICAM meeting and other welfare meetings to stay abreast of what is happening and to develop relationships. The dog and cat meat trade is an important issue as is the continuing battle to control rabies. Many breeding practices and breed standards are also linked to animal welfare issues – and, of course, the on-going problem of animal abuse and how the veterinary community should respond – is an important area of focus.


What projects is the AWWC currently working on?

Our most significant long-term undertaking is the development of our Global Welfare Guidelines. This is a three-year project which we are really excited about. We also work on outreach spay/neuter programs linked to WSAVA World Congress and offer shelter medicine workshops in conjunction with these outreach programs. Our goal is to train and educate wherever WSAVA Congress takes place - and to provide veterinarians around the world with the tools and resources they need to create or enhance their local and regional welfare efforts.


What do you do outside work to relax?

Ha! I read – mainly fictional mysteries. I also walk and do yoga. I like to do needle work and quilt while watching true crime shows on Investigation Discovery channel!


Melinda leading a human forensics workshop on outdoor crime scenes and burial excavations.

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