On the eve its annual convention, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) named Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, Ph.D., the Bustard Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year.
The award is named for the late Leo K. Bustad, DVM, Ph.D., a former dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University and past president of Pet Partners, a therapy animal training group based in Bellevue, Wash.
Dr. Hart received the award, in part, for his recently published study, the first to look at single breeds—golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers—and the effects of early neutering on the rates of cancer diagnosis and joint disorders by gender.
The study was funded by the American Kennel Club’s Canine Health Foundation (CHF), based in Raleigh, N.C., with a grant for $12,960.
Hart reviewed the medical records of 789 golden retrievers going back 15 years and more than 2,000 records for Labrador retrievers and focused on comparing the effects of neutering on increases or decreases in the risks of various diseases.
The dogs in Hart’s study were neutered before the age of 12 months, after 12 months or left unaltered.
Hart concluded veterinarians should be more cautious about recommending spay and neuter for their clients before the onset of puberty.
"This project lays out, more than any other study, the consequences of early neutering,” noted the project summary.
"Funding from the Canine Health Foundation was absolutely essential in enabling our team to move forward in this new venture,” Hart said.
"My goal, recognized by CHF, is giving dog caregivers the information they need to be directly involved in neutering decisions as related to the long-term health of their dogs,” he added.
Hart’s study was published in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE in February 2013 and has received many views and shares on social media.
Hart is a distinguished professor emeritus, school of veterinary medicine and director of the program for companion animal behavior at the University of California, Davis.
As part of the honor, Hart will receive a $5,000 grant to continue his work.
"Dr. Hart’s work exemplifies the value of the relationship between people and their dogs, and has significantly strengthened our foundation’s efforts to help all dogs live longer, healthier lives,” said Shila Nordone, Ph.D., chief scientific officer of the CHF.
The recipients of the Bustard Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year award are recognized for their lifelong dedication to the sanctity of the human-animal bond.
The annual award is cosponsored by the AVMA, Pet Partners and Hill’s Pet Nutrition of Topeka, Kan.