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Thousands flock to WesternU College of Veterinary Medicine Open House for a close-up look at animals

by William Reinhard

April 11, 2024

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WesternU College of Veterinary Medicine hosted its annual Open House April 6, 2024, on the Pomona campus. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

A winning combination of fascinating animals and perfect weather drew thousands of people to the Western University of Health Sciences Esplanade in Pomona, California on Saturday, April 6, 2024  for the College of Veterinary Medicine’s annual Open House.

Children of all ages petted farm animals, learned about birds and reptiles, played games, and enjoyed a day on campus. Scores of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts used the event as an opportunity to gain knowledge and attain badges.

For those who wanted to take their love for animals to the highest level, College of Veterinary Medicine professors offered career talks, providing insight into the field and what it takes to become a veterinarian.

Open House visitors view a mock surgery in the WesternU Pet Health Center on April 6, 2024. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

CVM Interim Dean John Tegzes, MA, VMD, DABVT, said that visitors enjoyed the variety that the open house offered.

“What struck me was that there was not one common favorite, but favorites from all of the activities,” Dr. Tegzes said. “One young child even bragged to me how when we went to the veterinary career talk, he was able to answer most of the questions the presenters asked. He was so proud and happy.”

That overall feeling of happiness extended to the pet owners and program representatives who brought animals to the event. They seemed to enjoy the experience as much as the attendees.

Open House visitors got to see and touch animals, including this snake. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

“I don’t get to do this enough, but it is really fun,” said Jordan Landsberg, RVT, who brought a few of her reptiles to the open house. She especially enjoyed meeting the children who take to reptiles and other exotic animals at a young age the same way she did.

“I was always the one who liked putting bugs on the shoulders of other kids,” she said with a laugh. “If other kids found something gross, I’d probably like it.” It was those youngsters with whom she really enjoyed connecting.

Many children were fascinated by her Pacman frog, a round specimen so named because of its similarity to the bulbous Pac-Man video game character with an insatiable appetite for little dots.

“The frog reminds me of a pet rock, if you had to feed a pet rock,” Landsberg said.

The Pomona Police Department K-9 demonstration. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

The Pomona Police Department offered police dog demonstrations, which drew many curious spectators. Some children worried that the officers wearing protective equipment could get hurt during the presentations, but the officers worked to make sure nobody left with that fear.

“Is she OK?” asked an attendee, as the dog wrestled with an officer.

“Oh yes,” said Officer Yvonne Rodriguez. “You can see the dog’s tail wagging. She’s playing.”

Officer Rodriguez said she wishes she could do more demonstrations like the WesternU Open House, which she believes is great community outreach, providing the public a chance to see how police and their K-9 colleagues work together to help keep the community safe.

“It is great to talk to all these kids,” she said.

The exotic animal room featured several raptors. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

Children also were drawn to the raptors in the exotic animal room. A tiny northern saw-whet owl—a raptor about the size of a robin—intrigued many attendees. But don’t let the bird’s diminutive size fool you.

“The bird’s behavior is similar to that of any other raptor,” said Lucas De Graaf, with the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department. “It goes after mice and other small food items in the same way a hawk might swoop in on its prey.”

The Open House is CVM’s largest community outreach event, drawing animal lovers and curious children to campus for more than a decade. Smaller children—mostly from the surrounding area—had the chance to pet piglets and bunnies, play games, experience a mobile ocean reef, feed hungry baby goats and take a pony ride at no cost. For older kids there was a strong educational component, where they learned about animal behavior and proper pet care.

The mobile ocean reef provided opportunities to touch and learn. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

An event this size requires a big team to pull off, and all facets of the College of Veterinary Medicine pitched in to make it a success. Students, college staff, and faculty members joined together to make it a day to remember.

For example, the new Rehabilitation Center at the WesternU Pet Health Center welcomed guests, college staff, lectures were held to spotlight the college’s Reverence for Life philosophy and its WAVE (Willed deceased Animals for Veterinary Education) program, and tours of the campus were scheduled throughout the day.

“That was an awesome event,” noted one visitor, in a message to Interim Dean Tegzes. “My kids had a blast and me stay all the way ‘til the end.”

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