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Port Alberni veterinarian wins award to further studies in veterinary forensics

December 17, 2018

Dr. Holly Tillotson of Pacific Rim Veterinary Hospital in Port Alberni is being recognized for her work in veterinary forensics with the presentation of this year’s Dr. Carol Morgan Memorial Award. The award was established by the Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada (AWFC) in honour of former BC SPCA board member Dr. Carol Morgan, a tireless advocate for animal welfare and ethical veterinary practice, who died in 2015.

Veterinary forensics is an emerging discipline that applies the most advance investigatory techniques in solving crimes against animals. Dr. Tillotson is a passionate advocate about this work. “Throughout my life in small animal practice I have assisted the BC SPCA in cases of cruelty, neglect, and participated in search and seizure situations,” she says. “I was introduced early on to veterinary forensics before it was an actual discipline. I started to research and study what I could find on veterinary forensics, but there was not much available ten to fifteen years ago. However, the field has changed dramatically.”

Dr. Holly Tillotson poses with a dog for a photo

Dr. Tillotson will use the Dr. Carol Morgan Memorial Award to further her studies by attending the International Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association annual conference in May 2019. “Presently there are few veterinarians with any training in forensics, especially in Canada. The dilemma our profession faces is that while we want to assist in the investigation of crimes against animals, we need additional training to play a more meaningful role.” She adds: “I would also like to increase awareness among local policing agencies of the skills that forensics veterinarians have and how we can assist them with investigating not only crimes against animals but also in crimes involving animals.”

In addition to her busy small animal practice in Port Alberni, Dr. Tillotson works closely with the Port Alberni SPCA and is also involved with the First Nations community of Ahoushat, on Flores Island near Tofino. Each month, the veterinary outreach team sees dogs and some cats from the community and provides education on animal health and welfare.

Last year’s award recipient, Dr. Susi Cienciala used her grant towards an online diploma in equitation science, which focuses on how horses learn, by studying the behaviour and cognition of horses: “I hope to create a webinar for veterinary students on low stress handling of equine patients. This information will keep veterinary students safer and empower them with information they can pass onto their clients and colleagues.”

The legacy of former BC SPCA board member, Dr. Carol Morgan continues to be exemplified in the work of these outstanding veterinarians working to increase the knowledge of the veterinary community in areas of animal welfare and ethics.