Dr Catherine Tiplady
Sentient Veterinary Member, Current Phd - Domestic Violence & Animal Abuse
I always loved animals and so it seemed natural that I would one day train to be a veterinarian, however I initially lacked the confidence to pursue this. After working in a range of different jobs (eg kennel hand, disability/aged care etc) I undertook my veterinary training at the University of Queensland. During my time at vet school I realised with surprise the range of feelings which existed among vet students towards animal welfare. I remember students laughing when shown a video of a polled sheep being continually chased in circles by a horned sheep on a crowded live export ship, and the hilarity which greeted the video showing a dog experimentally poisoned with strychnine. As the poor dog fell over seizuring the laughs of many students were overwhelming. The use of animals for terminal practical classes was greatly upsetting to me yet among my cohort of classmates it seemed I was the only one who requested alternatives.
My interest in animal welfare and the way animals are used in teaching increased and I undertook a research elective in the final year of my BVSc course to ‘investigate student preferences for the source of dog cadavers used in veterinary anatomy teaching’ (reference below). This research was published in the journal Alternatives to Laboratory Animals (ATLA) with co-authors Dr Shan Lloyd and Dr John Morton. Results showed that support for using donated cadavers (= ethically sourced) was highest among first year students who had not yet taken their first dog dissection class. Lower support for using donated cadavers was seen in the third and final year students, many of whom explained their preference for using pound dogs and ex-racing greyhounds as ‘they’re going to die anyway’, thereby echoing the words of the lecturers who sought to continue the use of pound dogs and greyhounds.
Also in my final year I wrote a critical essay on ‘Reasons why some children are cruel to animals’ with my supervisor Dr Shan Lloyd. The inspiration for this was seeing two little boys abusing their dog, pouring sand in her ears and even urinating on her, laughing. Realising that many children who abuse animals may themselves be from a violent home, I decided to focus on human/animal abuse as a research topic. After graduation I combined veterinary work in practice with post-graduate study. Initially I completed an Honours degree to investigate Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse and am currently close to finishing a PhD on the same topic with supervisors Prof. Clive Phillips and Dr Deborah Walsh. Several articles have been published in journals on our research in human/animal abuse.
I have been lucky enough to be able to write and publish a book on the topic of human/animal abuse (‘Animal Abuse – Helping Animals and People’) and in June this year I attended a book launch at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in London, hosted by the RCVS and my publisher CABI. A range of experts such as Phil Arkow, Carol J Adams, Deborah Walsh, David Bailey, Clive Phillips, Andrew Knight and others from veterinary, social work, welfare, vet forensics and animal behaviour fields have also contributed to the book. Writing this book was very challenging, not only because of the emotional nature of the topic but also because at the time I was busy working part-time as a vet, studying for my PhD and caring for my mother who had cancer. I would write the book in evenings and any spare time I had.
I truly believe that we can all do something to help the vulnerable members of society. My recent visit to England showed the strong animal welfare sentiment among my family there and many members of the public. I found this very humbling and it made me feel that my contribution to animal welfare is comparatively small. Aged pensioners who place bird seed out on a tray at their retirement home, the people who volunteer with welfare charities, wildlife societies and rehoming groups are such an inspiration to me. Whilst I’m hoping to get more involved with hands-on animal welfare in the future (eg volunteering) I feel that much greater collaboration is needed between human welfare and animal welfare experts. By doing this, we can best ensure that both the human and animal victims of abuse are given the help they need and deserve. I’d like to thank the Sentient executive for their ongoing support and the kind invitation to be Sentient Member of the Month.
For people interested in purchasing the book:
‘Animal Abuse – Helping Animals and People’ (book) by Catherine Tiplady, published by CABI, Oxford, UK. April, 2013.
‘Animal Use in Veterinary Education — The Need for a Fourth R: Respect’, by Catherine Tiplady, PiLAS (Perspectives in Laboratory Animal Science), October, 2012, pp. 5-6
‘Public response to media coverage of animal cruelty’ by Catherine M. Tiplady, Deborah-Anne B. Walsh and Clive J.C. Phillips, 2012, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics (published online 14 July, 2012).
'Intimate partner violence and companion animal welfare', CM Tiplady, DB Walsh and CJC Phillips, Australian Veterinary Journal, vol. 90, no 1-2, January/February, 2012, pp. 48-53.
'Veterinary Science Student Preferences for the Source of Dog Cadavers Used in Anatomy Teaching' by Catherine Tiplady, Shan Lloyd and John Morton, ATLA, 2011, vol. 39, no. 5, pp. 461-469.
'Ethical Dilemma – Cassie', (Domestic violence and animal abuse) by Catherine Tiplady and Mark Lawrie, Australian Veterinary Journal Volume 89, No 8, August 2011, pp. N20-N21.