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ASU pre-veterinary students share pet stories, pet care tips in new series


ASU College of Integrative Sciences and Arts pre-veterinary major Mara McDonald wraps her arms around rescued rottweiler Max in an outdoor setting with a stream and foliage in the background.

ASU College of Integrative Sciences and Arts student Mara McDonald and her rescue dog, Max, the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts' inaugural Pet Ambassador. McDonald, who lives in Washington, is an online major in applied biological sciences with a concentration in pre-veterinary medicine. Photo courtesy Mara McDonald

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October 24, 2022

Are furry, feathery or scaly friends beloved members of your household or regulars in your daily social media feeds? Then you may not know it yet, but your next must-follow series has just been launched by Arizona State University’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts.

The CISA Pet Ambassador Program was, ahem, unleashed Oct. 21, in advance of National Make A Dog's Day (Oct. 22), a day reminding people to look to animal shelters for pet adoption.

Each week, a new pet from the ASU community will be featured on the web and the college's social media accounts. Spotlights will include pictures and stories submitted by pet guardians, with commentary from students who are completing the pre-veterinary medicine concentration in applied biological sciences.

RELATED: Meet Max, the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts' first Pet Ambassador, and pre-vet major Mara McDonald

While the students won’t be giving out medical diagnoses and advice on treatment, they will be drawing upon their curriculum in pre-veterinary courses — like ABS 378: Applied Animal Nutrition and ABS 372: Captive Animal Behavior Management — to share general information on overall wellness and pet care.

“We’re really excited to share our students’ passion for animal well-being and bring visibility to our pre-veterinary medicine curriculum in applied biological sciences,” said College of Integrative Sciences and Arts Dean Joanna Grabski, who conceived the initiative early in the fall semester and who is pet guardian to Leo, an empathetic pup who came to the U.S. from Senegal in 2014.

More than 850 College of Integrative Sciences and Arts students are in the growing pre-veterinary program — with 250-plus studying at the ASU Polytechnic campus and about 600 completing the major online. The program teaching faculty includes licensed veterinarians.

“The pre-vet students have really come through with incredible photos and amazing stories about their pets,” said College of Integrative Sciences and Arts web content administrator and social media manager Theresa Cordon, pet mom to TJ, a Maltese/Shih Tzu mix who has an appetite for chicken nuggets. “The first round of submissions from students yielded dozens of great pet ambassadors.”

Lecturer in wildlife and animal science Julie Murphree sees the Pet Ambassador Program as an opportunity for pre-vet students to help create a community where animal-loving students can connect with other like-minded pet owners.  

The relationships, she said, have the potential to initiate the building and creation of innovative projects and the sharing of ideas that tie directly into the curriculum and the independent projects students are tackling.

“There are many misconceptions out there surrounding animal health and aging, for example, and the best diets for dogs and cats,” said Murphree, an avid running companion to her Aussie, Josie, and previous animal guardian to a menagerie of desert tortoises, dogs, cats and horses.

“There are issues the public wants to know more about and that many of our students choose to research more in-depth for their own end-of-semester projects and honors theses.

“Our students also can share what they’re learning about ways to strengthen the relationship and communication skills between companion animals and their guardians,” she said, “and an appreciation of force-free training and its application to everyday living and being out together in the wider community in settings such as cafes, off-leash areas, busy streets and beaches.”

Keep tabs on the CISA Pet Ambassador program on the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts website or the @CISAASU Instagram and Twitter accounts, and the hashtag #PetAmbassadorCISA.

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