Check Out Our Amazing Program

By Communication and Community Relations Staff
April 27, 2018

It’s not full of lions and tigers and bears, but the animal science classroom at Chantilly Academy does house reptiles, a tortoise, snakes, geckos, a chinchilla, a bearded dragon, a guinea pig, a rat, a ferret, and Madagascar cockroaches. It’s a perfect place for students hoping to become veterinarians, vet technicians for large animals, animal advocates, or naturalists to learn all about the world of animals and how to care for them.  

All of the animals were donated to the program and in addition to receiving a good home and great care, they provide students with the opportunity to learn anatomy and physiology of a number of different animals, how to properly handle the animals, how to read their reactions, and how to spot potential health problems. Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, the class’s name will change to better reflect its mission: veterinary science.

  Animal/veterinary science can prepare students for a variety of careers: graduates have become veterinarians; veterinary assistants, technologists, and technicians; zookeepers; naturalists; animal control workers; animal scientists; animal psychologists; entrepreneurs (one grad designs prosthetics for animals); and teachers.

McGlensey Antonucci and Ashley Spinetto are two alumnae of the program who recently returned to their alma mater to teach the class they took when they were in high school.  Antonucci’s backround is in zoological conservation and veterinary technology; she has work experience in zoos, wildlife parks, and veterinary clinics. She and Spinetto took the class with 28-year veteran Janet Kolakoski, who retired in 2017.  

Each Thursday, students perform grooming and baths for dogs by appointment. This allows them to gain experience working with a number of animals of differing shapes, sizes, ages, and temperaments, and helps them “learn to read them and tell the difference between an animal that is frightened and one that is aggressive,” says Antonucci. Some of the clients are geriatric, and one is blind, so the students get experience working with a wide variety of animals. Some dogs get the full grooming treatment, some get their nails done, and some just get a bath. Clients, some of whom have brought their dogs to the academy for approximately 20 years, pay a nominal fee for the service, which returns to the program and is used for food, supplies, and veterinary care for the animals.

Students also learn to restrain animals for medical procedures and the different types of venipuncture; above all, they strive to provide a stress-free environment for an animal undergoing any type of grooming or medical procedure.They’re also taught the specifics about each animal and learn that reptiles need a special cleaner for their cages and a special additive for their water, and that each animal has a specific diet. The 120 students in the classes at Chantilly Academy also learn how to sanitize instruments so they are ready for the next patient and learn the rules for animal care enforced by OSHA, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Once they’ve completed the course, they understand the basics in veterinary surgical procedures and can qualify to work as a veterinary technician or assistant.

Not only can the students apply what they learn to a future career, they can lend an extra hand to their pets at home, and some are already working in the field as kennel assistants, groomers, in local pet stores, or nature centers.  

“Students learn workforce readiness skills in this class,” says Antonucci. “They learn to collaborate, work as a team, and communicate.  They can adapt what they learn here into just about any profession.”