Department: Pathobiology and Population Sciences

Campus: Boltons Park

Research Centres: Veterinary Epidemiology, Economics and Public Health

Alison currently works as a Postdoctoral Researcher into Canine Research Funding within VetCompass at the RVC. This project uses her dual training as a veterinary surgeon and a historian to analyse past charitable funding of canine health research and develop a collaborative strategy for future funding decisions in this sector.

Alison joined the RVC as a Postdoctoral Researcher in September 2022. After qualifying from Cambridge Veterinary School in 1989, she spent many years working in small animal practice. During this time, she developed her particular interest in dog breeding and breed-related disease, and was involved in a variety of practical grass-roots initiatives in pedigree dog health. Alongside her clinical work, from 2014-2016 she undertook a MA in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at King’s College London, followed from 2016-2022 by a PhD, supervised by Professor Abigail Woods and Dr Caitjan Gainty, which was funded by a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship for Health Professionals. Her PhD research explored the history of breed-related disease in pedigree dogs from 1890 to the near-present. Alison’s interest in the history of animal-human relationships, and her belief that the humanities can offer valuable insight to the veterinary sector, led her to co-found the Animal History Group and Veterinary Humanities UK, two informal special interest networks that connect like-minded scholars across multiple institutions and fields of interest. Alison is currently President of the World Association for the History of Veterinary Medicine.

Alison's research has two strands. As a historian, she explores the changing ways in which humans have conceptualised, understood and shaped the canine body, and the impact of these actions on canine health. As a veterinary surgeon, she brings these insights to bear on the problems of canine health today. Her current project at the RVC, jointly funded by Battersea, Dogs Trust, the Kennel Club Charitable Trust and Waltham, uses these skills to explore the levels and distribution of UK canine health research funding over the last decade, and analyse the areas of research this has included. Through collaborative discussion with funders, vets, scientists, dog breeders and owners, the project will develop a joint strategy to agree priorities for future research funding decisions.

Selected Publications

O'Neill, D.G.; Skipper, A.M.; Packer, R.M.A.; Lacey, C.; Brodbelt, D.C.; Church, D.B.; Pegram, C., (2022) ‘English Bulldogs in the UK: a VetCompass study of their disorder predispositions and protections’, Canine Medicine and Genetics 9, 5.

Skipper, A., Gray, C., Serlin, R., O’Neill, D., Elwood, C., Davidson, J., (2021) ‘”Gold standard” care is an unhelpful term’, Vet Record 189, 331

Skipper, A.M., (2021) 'A historical perspective of brachycephalic breed health and the role of the veterinary profession', in Health and Welfare of Brachycephalic Breeds: A Guide for Veterinary Professionals, eds. D.G. O'Neill and R.M. Packer (Taylor and Francis).

Skipper, A.M., (2020) ‘The “dog doctors” of Edwardian London: elite canine veterinary care in the early twentieth century’, Social History of Medicine 33, 1233-58

O’Neill, Dan G., Skipper, Alison M., Kadhim, Jade, Church, David B., Brodbelt, Dave C., Packer, Rowena M.A., (2019) ‘Demography and disorders of Bulldogs under primary veterinary care in the UK in 2013’, PlosOne 14(6): e0217928. pone.0217928

Conference presentations (2022 onwards)

[Forthcoming] Invited speaker at ‘Dangerous Companions? New Perspectives on Human and Canine Coexistence’, Birkbeck, University of London, December 2022

‘From “night-blindness” to “nonsense” nucleotides: the international history of canine retinal disease – World Association for the History of Veterinary Medicine biennial congress, September 2022, Brescia, Italy

‘Contesting the canine body: veterinary expertise and dog breeding’ – Constructing and contesting veterinary expertise – professionals, publics and prospects - British Academy/Wellcome Trust online conference, July 2022

‘”Deafness is the curse of Bull Terriers”: the first collaborative investigation of canine inherited disease’ – Veterinary History Society meeting, May 2022, London

Alison has taught history to undergraduates and supervised medical and MSci student history research projects. She is an annual guest lecturer at the Society of Apothecaries.

President, World Association for the History of Veterinary Medicine

Co-founder and co-convenor, Animal History Group

Co-founder and co-convenor, Veterinary Humanities UK

Committee member, Veterinary History Society (UK)

Committee member, Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme Sub-Group

Committee member, Kennel Club Breed Standards and Conformation Sub-Group

Serving member, Dog Breeding Reform Group

Member of RCVS, BVA, BSAVA

Alison regularly communicates on pedigree dog health and its history to a variety of audiences, previous venues including the Natural History Museum (Tring), Dogs Trust staff, APDAWG (All-party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group), etc.

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