History of Veterinary Medicine | The Canadian Encyclopedia


History of Veterinary Medicine

The healing of ANIMAL and human ailments has been a preoccupation of humans for centuries. Human MEDICINE became professionalized much before veterinary medicine, which did not become institutionalized until the opening of veterinary schools in France at Lyons (1761) and Alfort (1766).

Veterinary Medicine, History of

The healing of ANIMAL and human ailments has been a preoccupation of humans for centuries. Human MEDICINE became professionalized much before veterinary medicine, which did not become institutionalized until the opening of veterinary schools in France at Lyons (1761) and Alfort (1766). Graduates probably did not come to Canada, immigration from France having been halted by the British CONQUEST in 1760.

In England the veterinary art was formally established in 1791, the year in which provision was made to create the colony of UPPER CANADA. Graduates of the Edinburgh Veterinary College, founded in 1823 in Scotland, are the first known veterinary practitioners in Canada with a diploma from a chartered school. Probably the only veterinary surgeon in the colony of New Brunswick in 1851 was M.A. Cuming of Saint John, an 1846 graduate of Edinburgh.

Veterinary Education

Farriers, without specialized veterinary training, outnumbered trained persons before and long after 1866 - the year in which the graduation of persons in Canada who had received formal training in a diploma course began (see BLACKSMITHING). Andrew SMITH, an 1861 graduate of the Edinburgh college, established the first formal course in Toronto (1862). From 1866 to 1908 (when the Ontario Veterinary College was acquired by the provincial government), over 3000 graduates completed the 2-year diploma course. Many of the graduates were from the US and did not remain in Canada; consequently, Canada continued to suffer from a lack of veterinary surgeons. Andrew Smith's college, moved from Toronto in 1922, continues today as the Ontario Veterinary College, UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH.

In 1866, a second private college with high admission standards was established in Montréal by Duncan MCEACHRAN. It eventually became a faculty of McGill University, closing in 1903 from lack of funds. The French-speaking college which arose from this English-speaking one has been in continuous operation since 1886. Founded by V.T. Daubigny, it united in 1894 with 2 other Québec schools to form the School of Comparative Medicine and Veterinary Science of Montréal. The school was moved to the Trappist Agricultural Institute of OKA, Qué, in 1928 and taken over by the Québec government and moved to Saint-Hyacinthe in 1947. It is affiliated with the UNIVERSITÉ DE MONTRÉAL. A college founded in 1895 in association with Queens University, Kingston, Ont, was short-lived, closing in 1899. A fourth college, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, established at the UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN in 1963, admitted its first class in 1965.

Veterinary Associations

The advent of the Ontario Veterinary College and its "educated" professionals was followed by a demand that society recognize these qualifications and services in preference to those of the empiric farrier. In 1874, under the aegis of Andrew Smith, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association was founded. It was incorporated as the Ontario Veterinary Association (OVA) in 1879. Veterinary associations were formed in Manitoba (1881), Québec (1902), Alberta (1906), BC (1907), Saskatchewan (1908-09), Nova Scotia (1913), New Brunswick (1919) and PEI (1920).

Each body was autonomous, recognized by provincial legislation established under Section 92 of the BRITISH NORTH AMERICA ACT, 1867. Each formulated bylaws to govern its membership and especially to decide who should be admitted to practice by virtue of holding a recognized diploma. The 1871 census showed 247 "Farriers and Veterinary Surgeons," most residing in Ontario, the remainder in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The North-West Territories had virtually no veterinary surgeons.

Veterinary medicine thus developed along provincial lines, characterized for many years, and in some instances to the present day, by narrow provincialism. This attitude was probably related to low fees, the fear of professional opposition from recent graduates, and an inability to take a broad view of the profession. It meant that little or no interest developed in a national association. Furthermore, the American Veterinary Medical Association, founded in 1863, filled the needs of the affluent who could afford to travel to its annual meetings.

Between 1871 and 1911 the number of veterinary surgeons increased to 1150: Ontario, 50%; western Canada, 30%; and the remaining eastern provinces, 20%. Empiricism continued to flourish despite efforts by provincial associations to confine the treatment of farm animals to their membership. In the early 1890s, veterinary dental schools in Toronto gave instruction to anyone who could pay for the brief instruction and diploma. Instructors were not necessarily veterinary surgeons.

In 1896 the Veterinary Science Company of London, Ont, was established and through the London Veterinary Correspondence School ran a course in veterinary medicine and surgery. Besides a home-study course, the school provided a textbook and diploma which it led recipients to believe was qualification to practise anywhere in Canada. Provincial legislation closed the school in 1921, but before then 77 editions of the text were published and diplomas were issued worldwide. For many years the provincial associations had to cope with the demands of London school "graduates" who unsuccessfully sought membership and practice privileges.

After WWII, the subject of the formation of a national veterinary association surfaced in western Canada. The need became evident when the federal government disbanded the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps (RCAVC) in 1940 without consulting the profession. There was no national group to lobby against disbanding. In addition, displaced veterinarians from Europe were immigrating to Canada, and provincial associations were uncertain about their standards. A national association was needed to speak for the profession and to act as an examining body to screen immigrant veterinarians and to establish reciprocity among provincial examining boards.

In 1912 the British Columbia Veterinary Medical Association (BCVMA) had proposed a national body and by about 1920 most of the provinces were sympathetic. In 1921 a Canadian Veterinary Council was formed with representatives from each provincial association; however, at a conference in Ottawa that year, a draft bill to enact a Dominion association faltered on provincial misunderstanding. In 1923 a Canadian National Veterinary Association was founded by individuals attending a national meeting in Montréal, but this association died quietly for lack of funds and provincial support.

The Western Canadian Veterinary Association (WCVA), formed in the 1930s, became dormant until 1945, mainly because of problems related to reconciling provincial autonomy with national registration. The problem was a draft clause which would give a national association the right to permit recognized graduates to practise anywhere in Canada. A Dominion Veterinary Council, which was formed (1943-44) to try again to organize a viable national association, promoted a Dominion body within which provinces would retain the right to set examinations. This council succeeded in starting provincial discussions but held only one meeting.

In 1945 a revived Western Canada association proposed a national association and skirted the sensitive areas of national registration and a national examining board. Largely through the efforts of Albertan B.I. Love, as representative of the WCVA, the thoughts of presidents of the eastern Canadian associations began to crystallize, and by April 1946 plans had been developed for a national body. On 30 June 1948 the Act to incorporate the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association received royal assent.

Mounted Police Veterinarians

The mounted police force, enacted by legislation in 1873 to police the North-West Territories, "marched" west from Toronto in June 1874, by train, accompanied by 244 HORSES under the care of John Luke Poett, a veterinary surgeon from Stratford, Ont. Poett, an 1860 Edinburgh graduate, had practised in Ontario since 1869, first in London, then in Stratford. One of the first veterinary surgeons in the Territories and the first graduate veterinary surgeon of the force, Poett served under a commission (1874-77 and 1884-95), latterly as a staff sergeant.

The NORTH-WEST MOUNTED POLICE (NWMP) became the arm of the federal government responsible for the enforcement of disease control in domestic animals arriving in the Territories with settlers from the US. Initially, control of contagious diseases was mainly related to horses but it soon extended to cattle. In 1884, Poett inspected nearly 2800 imported cattle for evidence of skin diseases and contagious pleuropneumonia. In 1895, 9 other qualified veterinary surgeons belonged to the force. These men were responsible for the health of the horses (782 in 1895) and acted as inspectors of imported animals until the number of veterinarians in the Territories reached a level which permitted their employment in lieu of NWMP veterinarians (about 1907).

Two veterinary surgeons took care of the horses of the government forces suppressing the NORTH-WEST REBELLION. One of these, John G. RUTHERFORD, an 1879 graduate of OVC, left his newly opened practice in Portage la Prairie to become a commissioned officer in the Winnipeg Field Battery and veterinary surgeon for General Middleton's forces. Subsequently, he practised in Portage, became a politician (provincial and federal governments) and then founder of the Health of Animals Branch, Canada Department of Agriculture, with the title Veterinary Director General (1902).

Army Veterinarians

Before 1910 no veterinary corps existed in the Canadian Army; veterinary surgeons were noncommissioned officers or regimental officers with mounted and artillery units. In 1910 the Army Veterinary Service (AVS) was established, consisting of qualified veterinary surgeons with commissioned rank, supported by personnel of other ranks. This service, part of the Canadian Militia, consisted of the Canadian Permanent Army Veterinary Corps (CPAVC), veterinary officers gazetted to the corps, and non-commissioned officers and privates enlisted therein; the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps (CAVC), veterinary officers gazetted to the corps and detailed for duty with mounted corps of the Active Militia; and the short-lived Regimental Veterinary Service (RVS), consisting of officers then on the regimental staff of mounted corps.

The Army Veterinary Service thus had a permanent force and a militia group of officers, each responsible to the quartermaster general of the Canadian Militia. The senior officer of the CPAVC administered the service. Beneath him were the principal veterinary officers of military districts or divisions. There was a Veterinary Remount Establishment and schools for training enlisted men. In 1912 the Militia Council published regulations specifying the duties and functions of all officers, veterinary schools and hospitals, and other facets of the Canadian Army Veterinary Service.

When WWI began, the groundwork had been established for the employment of veterinary surgeons, and within 3 months of the outbreak Canadian veterinarians were en route to England with troops and horses. In addition, a Remount Service had begun to purchase horses to supply currently formed army units and to replace losses overseas.

Canadian veterinarians enlisted in both the Canadian and British Army Veterinary Corps, each corps eventually being awarded the title Royal in recognition of war service. About 300 Canadian veterinarians served varying periods during 1914-18, mainly in Europe but also in India, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Russia. Several received decorations for preserving the lives of horses while under severe enemy attack. Mobile sections removed horse casualties to evacuation stations, which sent severely injured animals to base hospitals for surgical and other treatments. Mange hospitals were essential to control and suppress outbreaks of that debilitating parasite. On the conclusion of hostilities, a few veterinary officers remained in Europe until 1920 in order to aid in the disposal of horses, either as human food or as work animals in Belgium and Italy.

In 1915, because of a severe shortage of veterinary officers for the British army, some Canadian veterinary students (final year) had been permitted to forgo final examinations if they enlisted in the British corps as second lieutenants. A few took advantage of this, were graduated in absentia and were in England as fully fledged veterinary officers about 3 weeks after enlisting. The veterinary personnel of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (1914-18), 72 officers and 756 other ranks had cared for 24 000 horses by the time the war ended.

In 1929 the RCAVC establishment was 12 officers and 38 other ranks, in 6 detachments. The CAVC consisted of 100 officers and 55 other ranks, in 11 sections. With replacement of horses by motorized vehicles, a veterinary establishment was no longer needed. In 1940 both corps were disbanded, and during WWII very few veterinarians served in a capacity related to their veterinary qualifications. The majority of those serving belonged to a group concerned with biological warfare; their work remains classified. Technological warfare caused the demise of the army veterinary surgeon in Canada, but not in Britain or the US.