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MSc in Animal Welfare & Behavior


It has been a long time coming.  After more than five years in development, a faculty-driven, thoughtful and careful planning process has yielded an on-line Master’s of Science in Animal Welfare and Behavior.

This MSc offering reflects Penn Vet’s critical mass of faculty that have a unique expertise in animal welfare and behavior.  Our successful launch of a Graduate Certificate program in this area last fall provides further evidence for the timeliness of continuing educational opportunities for working professionals in animal welfare and behavior.

Apply to the MSc AWB Program

Application Deadline for this fall: August 14, 2020

Questions About the MSc-AWB?

Want more information about the MSc in Animal Welfare & Behavior? Contact us today.


Why Animal Welfare & Behavior?

One of the most remarkable aspects of Homo sapiens as a species is how extensively we have coaxed, co-opted or coerced other animal species on the planet to serve our needs. Since man first domesticated animals over 10,000 years ago, we have benefited from animals providing us protection, transport, power, food, clothing, entertainment and companionship. 

However, animal use raises questions about what we owe these animals in return for our benefits.  Societal views about how man interacts with animals continue to evolve, continue to be debated and will reflect temporal, socio-economic or cultural perspectives. Animal welfare is the academic discipline that addresses both philosophical and scientific aspects of societal concerns about animal. Animal behavior is complex and intriguing, but also useful tool for understanding and improving animal welfare.


Why Penn Vet?

While the overarching subject of animal welfare embraces both the humanities and the sciences, training programs that focus on the science of animal welfare are relatively less common. 

Coming from a veterinary school perhaps then it is not surprising that our program is both animal-centric and focuses animal welfare science. The program has been developed around faculty having expertise in both the physical and psychological health of animals as well as the naturalness of their lives and promise a unique educational experience.  We believe that a profound understanding of the animal in animal welfare will benefit anyone interested in improving the quality of lives of animals.


Who should pursue our MSc in Animal Welfare & Behavior?

Our target audience is working professionals and others seeking positions that impact the care and welfare of animals.

A growing number of national and international stakeholders, including companies, NGO’s and academia are all seeking individual with expertise and a top quality education in animal welfare and behavior. 

Our online research Master's degree program brings together renowned experts in animal welfare, animal behavior and veterinary medicine with students, animal enthusiasts and working professionals employed by veterinary practice, animal shelters, research labs, pharmaceutical companies, NGOs, agriculture, and food production.

About the MSc Program

The Master of Science in Animal Welfare and Behavior is designed as an online program with an option for on-site research. It can be completed as a full-time program in a two-year period or as a part-time program over a longer period. Please see below for details of the curriculum.

All students enrolled in the MSc in Animal Welfare & Behavior complete core requirements. In addition, all MSc students are required to complete a capstone project, which must involve the generation of independent and original intellectual content. 

We offer two curricular options, which are related to the type of capstone research project you choose. 

  • Option I:  Requires original research and data collection in the field or laboratory.
  • Option II: Requires original analysis of current literature.

In each case, students choose a track:

  • One Welfare -  generalist track, available Fall 2020
  • Species Specific tracks – available Fall 2021
  • Farm Animal Welfare
  • Shelter Animal Welfare
  • Companion Animal Welfare
  • American College of Animal Welfare track -  available 2021, for veterinarians preparing to meet requirements for American College of Animal Welfare

MSC in Animal Welfare & Behavior Curriculum


Year One
Fall Animal Welfare Science
(1 CU)
Animals and Society
(1 CU)
Spring Fundamentals of Animal Behavior
(1 CU)
Applied Animal Welfare & Behavior
(1 CU)
Summern/a 
Year Two
Fall Animal Welfare Assessment
(0.5 CU)
Track Specific Course I
(0.5 CU)
 Proseminar
(1 CU)
Spring Track Specific Course II
(0.5 CU)
Current topics in Animal Welfare 
(0.5 CU)
 Capstone Seminar
(1 CU)
SummerMentored Thesis research, writing, and defense
(1 CU)
 

Track-Specific Electives


  • Fall 2020 - The Evolution of Animal Welfare
  • Spring 2021 - Regulations and Animal Welfare
  • More electives to be added in Fall of 2021


Animal Welfare & Behavior Faculty

  • Thomas Parsons, VMD/PhD, DACAW
    • Dr. Tom Parsons, Penn Vet New Bolton CenterProfessor of Swine Production Medicine
    • Director, Swine Teaching & Research Center
    • Dr. Parsons is the Faculty Coordinator for the Master of Science in Animal Welfare and Behavior. Dr. Parsons was instrumental in establishing Penn Vet’s Swine Teaching & Research Center, which has served as a prototype for commercial-scale implementation of sustainable agricultural practices for more than a decade. To date, more than 200,000 sows on 80 farms across the U.S. and Canada have adopted the animal-friendly rearing systems pioneered by Dr. Parsons at Penn Vet’s Swine Center. In addition, Dr. Parsons has built one of the largest research groups working on farm animal welfare in North America. As a charter diplomat of the American College of Animal Welfare (ACAW), Dr. Parsons has received awards from the New York Farmers for distinguished service to agriculture and from the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA) for animal welfare advocacy. He also sits on welfare advisory committees for the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV), the American Humane Association, Tyson Foods, and Kraft-Heinz.
  • Meghann Pierdon, VMD, DACAW
    • meghann-pierdonAssistant Professor of Clinical Production Medicine
    • Director of Pennsylvania Regional Disease Control Program
    • Dr. Pierdon is Faculty Coordinator of Animal Welfare and Behavior Graduate Certificate Program. Dr. Pierdon performs research on swine welfare, and disease mapping for the swine and poultry industries. She is the first swine veterinarian to be board certified in Animal Welfare and she designed Penn Vet's first Animal Welfare Science course which has been oversubscribed each of the three years she has offered it to Penn Vet students.
  • James Serpell, PhD
    • Dr. James Serpell, Penn VetMarie A. Moore Professor of Ethics & Animal Welfare
    • Director, Center for Interaction of Animals & Society
    • Dr. Serpell lectures on veterinary ethics, applied animal behavior and welfare and founded the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ).  He has an international reputation as an author of the now-classic, In the Company of Animals, and the editor of The Domestic Dog, now in its 2nd edition. His research specializes in understanding animal welfare and animal-human interactions and has significantly advanced our knowledge of companion animal behavior and welfare. He is the recipient of the IAHIO/ISAZ Distinguished Scholar Award.
  • Carlo Siracusa, DACVB, DECAWBM
    • Dr. Carlo Siracusa, Penn VetAssociate Professor of Clinical Animal Behavior & Welfare
    • Director of Clinical Behavior Medicine
    • Dr. Siracusa is Board certified by both the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, of which he is the President, and the European College of Animal Welfare & Behavior Medicine. He provides an engaging public face for Penn Vet's Behavior Clinic and expertise with his frequent appearances in the media. 
  • Brittany Watson, VMD, PhD
    • Dr. Brittany Watson, Penn Vet Shelter MedicineAssociate Professor of Clinical Shelter Medicine
    • Director of Shelter Medicine & Community Engagement
    • Dr. Watson has used her background in education to develop unique outreach programs that serve both students and shelter communities.
  • Jennifer Punt, VMD/PhD
    • Dr. Jenni Punt, Penn VetAssociate Professor of Clinical Shelter Medicine
    • Director of Shelter Medicine & Community Engagement
    • Professor of Immunology
    • Associate Dean for One Health

Admissions & Financial Aid

Admissions

  • Our ideal applicants are working professionals in vocations focused on animal health and welfare who will benefit from a graduate program they can pursue while working full time.
  • This group includes but is not limited to veterinarians interested in sitting for the Boards in the American College in Animal Welfare.
  • We also welcome college graduates interested in pursuing a career in animal health or policy, as well as veterinary students who would like to deepen their knowledge of animal welfare and behavior.  
  • A bachelor’s degree that includes one college level biology course is required.  An advanced background in biology or animal science will be preferred. 

Admissions Requirement

  • Completed application form the following:
    • Academic transcript detailing performance in courses leading to the last academic degree the student received
    • Current résumé
    • Two letters of recommendation that address your qualifications for this program, your potential for research or similar novel scholarly activities, and your commitment to/interest in animal welfare or behavior. 
    • Personal statement that describes your motivation for participating in our Master’s program as well as how you envision this program advancing your professional goals and aspirations.
    • Essay that, in fewer than 1000 words, addresses a topic of interest in animal welfare and/or behavior by either
      1. developing an argument supporting a position or
      2. discussing a gap in our knowledge and how it could be resolved.
    • Non-refundable application fee of $25.

Our commitment to diversity: We are committed to identifying, recruiting and training a diverse population of students, including both students from underrepresented populations as well as students who will serve in under-resourced rural and urban areas. The success of our program, in fact, depends on our ability to attract such a diverse group. 

Cost

  • Cost is $3,500 for a one-credit unit course.

Financial Aid

  • Students in the MSc program will be eligible for financial aid and federal loans.  In order to qualify for financial aid each student will need to take 2 CU equivalents per semester; we have specifically designed the program so that students can take this equivalent while continuing to work.

Next Steps