History of the AAZV

The American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV) had its origin in 1946, when a small group of veterinarians who were working in zoos met informally during the annual meeting of the American Veterinary Medical Association in Boston. They named the group Zoo Veterinarians and agreed to meet annually at the AVMA meeting. Three of the people attending that meeting were Drs. Leonard Goss (deceased), Patricia O'Conner Halloran (recently deceased) and Lester Fisher (still hale and hearty), all of whom contributed greatly to the field of captive wild animal medicine.

The group established the following aims: 1). to inform those attending the meeting as to newer developments in veterinary medicine applicable to captive wild animals, 2). to publish and disseminate information on the subject and 3). to encourage the use of veterinarians in zoos. Those aims are incorporated into the fabric of AAZV even today. In 1949 a resolution was passed that each member must submit a case report for dissemination or publication. Dues were set at $1.00 per year to help defray the cost of printing and disseminating the case reports. Patricia O'Connor Halloran served as the secretary, program chairperson and only officer for 12 years.

In 1959, a committee was appointed to draw up a constitution and bylaws, which was approved in August 1960 by the membership. The group then became known as the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians with Dr. Charles P. Gandal the first president and Werner P. Heuschle the first secretary/treasurer.

AAZV membership has grown from a handful of dedicated pioneers to over 1000, including full-time zoo veterinarians, part-time zoo veterinarians, foreign zoo veterinarians, veterinarians working in rehabilitation, private practitioners with a keen interest in wild animals, students, veterinary technicians, and zoo curators and keepers.

Mile Posts

In 1968, the officers of AAZV took a great leap forward and decided to meet separately from AVMA. For three years the group met at the Kellogg Center at Michigan State University in cooperation with Dr. Charles Reed, their coordinator of continuing education. Since then, AAZV has met in cities throughout North America, hosted by the zoo in that city. In 1976, over 240 people attended a 4-day conference with a program of formal papers, case reports, visits to a local zoo and miscellaneous social activities. In 2003, 575 people attended the meeting. Some of the meetings have been combined with other organizations including the International Association of Aquatic Animal Medicine (IAAAM) and the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians (AAWV).

With the separate meeting, it was felt desirable to publish a Proceedings for those attending the meeting and to be disseminated to those unable to attend. This has continued to the present with only one year when the proceedings was not produced. The Proceedings were mimeographed in the early days and the Executive Committee of AAZV felt there should be something more permanent. Thus was born (1970) the Journal of Zoo Animal Medicine, affectionately known as the giraffe journal from the logo on the cover. The logo was changed in 1987 to include more representative species. The name of the journal was changed to the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine in 1989 to reflect the broader concern for both captive and free-ranging wild animal medicine.

When Dr. Fisher and the other pioneers became zoo veterinarians they did it because of their love of wild animals and willingness to care for all creatures. There were no training programs and no books to guide them. In 1968, the San Diego Zoo started the first internship program and that same year the first training program in a veterinary school anywhere in the world began when the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine inaugurated its Zoological Medicine program. It remained the only training program at the residency level for many years, but now many veterinary schools have one or more faculty devoted to teaching wild animal medicine. Furthermore, many zoos have internships and residencies that comply with the criteria established by the American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM).

The first textbook on zoo animal medicine was published in the German language in 1976.Under the sponsorship of the Morris Animal Foundation, the first test in English was published in 1978 with the title Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine, and edited publication with 75 contributors. The book is now in its 6th edition and serves as the primary literature source for zoo medicine throughout much of the world.

In 1977, the officers of the AAZV determined that specialty status from the AVMA should be sought. The American Board of Veterinary Specialist of the AVMA gave provisional approval for establishment of the American College of Zoological Medicine with eight charter embers in 1983. Five years later (1988), full approval was given. The membership of ACZM stands at over 100 with many zoos advertising that diplomate status is desired or required for open veterinary positions.

Zoo veterinarians have become an integral part of the AZA accreditation process, with a veterinarian assigned as one of the inspection team to evaluate a zoo’s accreditation status. Zoo veterinarians have also been actively involved in government regulations because all zoos are regulated by the Unites States Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Commerce and the United States Public Health Agency. Zoo veterinarians have worked closely with agency regulators to ensure compliance and to develop workable solutions to unique situations, such as potential exposure of foreign animal diseases to endangered species.

Zoo veterinarians have been instrumental in improving the health and well-being of zoo animals by providing state of the art veterinary care through participation in the design of appropriate enclosures ad hosing, serving as zoo directors, conducting research on improved methods of handling zoo animals and participating in conservation projects both within zoos and in the field. A large number of committees within AAZV utilize the expertise and experience of members to deal with the many issues that still face the zoo world.

For more detailed information on the history of AAZV consult the CD ROM-American Association of Zoo Veterinarians – The collected annual Conference Proceedings 1968-2006, including a history of the AAZV by Murray Fowler. This is available from the office of the AAZV, 581705 White Oak Rd, Yulee, Florida, 32079. Phone 904 225 3275, email admin@aazv.org