College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Heather Bacon and animal welfare

Heather Bacon was awarded CEVA Chris Laurence Vet of the Year 2016 for her commitment to the continued improvement of animal welfare.

What are you currently working on?

Heather Bacon assessing a bear whilst sedated

My part-time PhD research focuses on understanding the current knowledge and attitudes to animal behaviour and welfare amongst zoo staff across Europe and China.  

A key focus is a better understanding of the current gaps in animal welfare and behaviour knowledge and the barriers to delivering training to zoo staff. This research will be used to develop an industry-appropriate intervention which will effectively deliver appropriate education.

Additional research projects include the development of a welfare assessment tool to benchmark dog welfare in trap-neuter-return programmes around the world.  Another is a Southern India educational research project evaluating the impact of targeted education of veterinarians in India and Sri Lanka on the topics of dog medicine, surgery, behaviour and welfare.

What do you hope will come out of your research?

A better understanding of regional and industry-specific knowledge and attitudes to relevant animal health and welfare issues. Furthermore, the development of targeted and effective educational interventions and improved knowledge and skills in the veterinary and zoo communities, resulting in better animal welfare overall.

How did you get here?

Heather Bacon and colleagues assessing a dog

I am currently the Veterinary Welfare Education and Outreach Manager at the University of Edinburgh’s Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education (JMICAWE), based within the  Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

I graduated from the University of Liverpool with a first class degree in Conservation Medicine in 2003, and from the University of Bristol with my degree in Veterinary Medicine in 2005. I am an RCVS Advanced practitioner in zoological medicine.

My work at the JMICAWE is focused primarily overseas to improve the welfare of animals by working with NGOs and veterinary organisations, particularly on the topics of dog population management, zoo animal and exotic pet welfare.

Much of this work is focused in Asia where I have almost 10 years of work experience. I previously lived and worked in China as the Veterinary Director at the Animals Asia Foundation. This NGO is working towards ending the trade in bear bile across Asia, a position which sparked my interest in animal welfare and veterinary education.

Who are you collaborating with?

Heather Bacon and veterinary students performing an operation

My work allows me to collaborate with a number of inspiring NGOs such as Animals Asia, Dog’s Trust, IFAW, and Wild Welfare on education and research projects. I also work closely with colleagues at the R(D)SVS and SRuC, and with zoological organisations such as BIAZA, EAZA and WAZA.

I also work with academic partners in China, Vietnam and India who have been instrumental in facilitating my research.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

My area of clinical speciality s bear medicine and surgery and I have anesthetised hundreds of bears in my career so far!

Related Links

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education