MVMA’s history begins in 1874 with 24-year-old Dr. Wesley F. Lipsett who travelled to the newly created province of Manitoba as a recent graduate from the Ontario Veterinary College. Dr. Lipsett purchased a farm in Meadow Lea, just west of Winnipeg, where he began farming and established a clientele for his veterinary services.
Dr. Lipsett’s interest in politics saw him elected to Manitoba’s fourth Legislative Assembly in 1879 as the Woodlands representative. High on his political agenda was advocating for improved care for the province’s livestock.
On June 25, 1879, the first Act regarding animal health was passed in Manitoba. An Act Respecting Infectious and Contagious Diseases of Domestic Animals encouraged people to identify for inspection animals they suspected were suffering from a contagious disease.
Historically, this Act had additional significance since it specified the appointment of a veterinary inspector licensed to practice in Manitoba. At the time, no licensing body existed for veterinarians, so the Act effectively paved the way for the creation of a veterinary association.
Manitoba’s first veterinary inspector was Dr. Willet J. Hinman, an Ontario Veterinary College graduate from the class of 1875. Dr. Hinman’s first annual report drove home the point that Manitoba needed more veterinary inspectors.
In a meeting with John Norquay, Manitoba’s premier at the time, Drs Lipsett and Hinman and a few other veterinarians in the province discussed the need for a veterinary association. The outcome was the passing of an Act Respecting Veterinary Surgeons on May 25, 1881.
This Act stated that all people practicing veterinary medicine as of June 1881 and licensed according to the provisions of the Act were deemed to form the Veterinary Association of the Province of Manitoba.
A bacterial infection that is typically associated with horses, Glanders infects the respiratory system or skin. It is an ancient disease, documented by early Greek and Roman writers, and in the late 1600s, a French researcher recognized it as a disease contagious to humans. Human infections of the bloodstream were documented to be fatal within a week to 10 days.
It is believed that Glanders arrived in North America with early European settlers who travelled with infected horses. The extensive movement of horses during and after the American Civil War from 1861 and 1865 greatly contributed to the spread of the disease in the United States.
The importation of horses from the United States to serve the early settlers’ expansion of Manitoba created a foothold for the disease in this province. It was a disease with human health implications that existing public policy was not robust enough to address.
In December 1882, the Province of Manitoba invited all practicing veterinary surgeons to meet in Winnipeg and discuss how to eliminate Glanders. This meeting coincided with a reorganization of government that saw the creation of the Department of Agriculture, Statistics and Health Act that passed July 7, 1883, and outlined improved measures for disease control.
The Act legislated three aspects significant to veterinary practice in Manitoba. It defined the appointment of a district veterinarian in every county of the Province as a means of controlling Glanders. In addition, a Board of Agriculture was created and given the authority to fine any veterinarian not registered with the Board.
The Board effectively took over the veterinarian registration duties, thereby bringing to a standstill the functioning of the Veterinary Association of the Province of Manitoba. Registration continued under the Board for a period of time until the system stopped working and ceased to function.
Unsatisfied with the state of affairs for the profession, Manitoba’s veterinarians gathered on December 17, 1889, to reform the Veterinary Association of Manitoba. Of first priority was the drafting of updated legislation.
On March 31, 1890, the Veterinary Association Act 1890 was passed into law, providing the association with the authority to oversee registration of veterinarians in the province once more. By year’s end, 20 veterinarians were registered.
On the same day, legislature also passed An Act Respecting the Diseases of Animals that established positions for district veterinarians who would work for the government as required.
In 1893, this Act would be amended to include the appointment of a provincial veterinarian who would administer the Act. Dr. J.S. Thompson was the first to hold this position from the period of 1893 to 1904.
By 1920, membership in the association had increased to 120. Veterinarians of the day earned a big chunk of their daily bread tending to the health of the province’s horse population that had reached 420,000 animals.
The rise of the Great Depression in the 1930s took its toll on the profession. In 1934, 20 veterinarians were struck from the register since they had not paid registration fees for more than three years. Annual dues were $4.00 at the time.
By the late 1930s, livestock prices were on the rebound and more veterinarians found themselves in business again. The province’s first poultry testing lab had been established in Winnipeg. It expanded its services to cattle testing and eventually it evolved into the province’s first veterinary laboratory.
The lab moved to the University of Manitoba in 1938, and in the same year Dr. Alfred Savage was appointed as the first Provincial Animal Pathologist.
In 1943, every provincial association was urged by Dr. A.E. Campbell, the Veterinary Director General of Canada, to join in the formation of a national veterinary association.
Eight provinces and the Ontario Veterinary College united with him in the Veterinary Medical Council of Canada. In 1948, a Federal Act was passed to establish a national veterinary association and Manitoba was invited to host the association’s first meeting in September, 1949.
On February 8, 1945, Manitoba’s Minister of Agriculture announced at the association’s annual general meeting that the province would pay livestock owners $1 for every female calf vaccinated against brucellosis, in an effort to eradicate this bacterial infection in cattle. In cows, brucellosis could cause abortions; in humans, the infection could be passed to those who drank unpasteurized milk or ate cheese made with unpasteurized milk.
It caused fever, sweating, weakness, anaemia, headaches, depression and muscular and bodily pain. The second announcement the minister made at the meeting was that, due to the shortage of veterinarians in rural Manitoba, the Province was establishing a scholarship fund to encourage young men to attend veterinary college. And finally, to address veterinarian shortages in rural Manitoba, the Province was establishing subsidized practices to extend veterinary service to areas where it was required.
This was the Province’s first foray into establishing subsidized veterinary practices in order to ensure Manitoban livestock producers had access to veterinary services.
The arrival of displaced Europeans at the end of WWII, required the association to establish a system to assess qualifications of foreign veterinarians. The establishment and review of standards has since been adopted by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.
In the 1950s, veterinarians voiced increased concern over the unethical conduct of people practicing veterinary medicine without a license. Requests were made to strengthen the Act so that appropriate action could be taken.
A committee was struck, and on March 30, 1957, the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association Act passed. The Act changed the association’s name from the Veterinary Association of Manitoba to the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA), in keeping with the names of most other veterinary associations in Canada and the United States.
In April, 1958, MVMA president, Dr. E. J. Rigby joined the other presidents of the western veterinary medical associations, as well as invited provincial representatives, at a meeting in Alberta to investigate the need for a Western Veterinary College.
By 1963, an Act establishing a College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan was passed by Parliament.
The first students were admitted in 1965.
Members opened the act to update it to reflect evolving practices.
The Veterinary Medical Act of 1974 established a Veterinary Medical Board that was the licensing and regulatory arm for the profession, with board members selected by the Minister of Agriculture.
The association maintained the role of establishing bylaws and code of ethics.
The Act defined the role of animal health technicians in relation to veterinary practices and the public.
The Veterinary Medical Act was amended and updated to increase its effectiveness.
A new Veterinary Medical Act, the one currently governing the profession, was passed December 15, 1999.
It restored the licensing and regulatory duties to the association and better defined the role of animal health technologists as part of the veterinary care team.