“This is SO cool!”

The exclamation by a young girl with a feline-painted face was a sentiment repeated in various ways by many of the hundreds who attended the annual Open House at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine on Saturday, April 15.

The free event was open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and included a range of family-friendly activities, such as animal handling, teddy-bear repair, dog sport & horseshoeing demonstrations, lectures, and more.

Much of this was in evidence all at once on one corner of the veterinary college grounds late Saturday morning.

Dog handlers guided various breeds through a course of hoops, tubes and poles on what is normally the outdoor equine track as the “plink, plink, plink” of the horseshoe maker’s hammer rang in the background from the nearby Farrier’s Shop.

In an adjacent pen, horses Lola and Jasmine were painted on their hides  with a skeleton and gastrointestinal tract display – respectively – as students Drew Myers and Elena Mantis gave passersby a quick lesson on equine anatomy, with particular emphasis on a horse’s huge colon.

Deep in the bowels of the building, in Classroom 129, all manner of animals not commonly seen in the veterinary college were on hand – quite literally, being held by visitors.

“This is only a small part of my menagerie,” said fourth-year student Jacob LaVarnway preparing to move to North Carolina for work with exotic animals.

LaVarnway’s tarantula, hognosed snake and Honduran corn snake were held or touched by many of the guests of all ages while others just looked, even recoiled. Later, LaVarnway put the corn snake around his neck and wandered into the crowd milling in the VMIA at various exhibits.

For those who weren’t into spiders and snakes, first-year student Nonye Williams’ English Angora rabbit “Puff Daddy Puff” provided a more calming and comfortable touch.

"We are incredibly grateful for the continuing success of our annual Open House at the veterinary college. The event serves as a wonderful opportunity for us to educate the public about the importance of animal and human health, showcase the many outstanding programs we have to offer, and provide a range of fun and engaging activities for families to enjoy. It is truly heartwarming to see so many people come together and share in our passion for veterinary medicine and public health. We look forward to continuing this tradition for many years to come,” said Dean Dan Givens.

The Open House event offers the public an opportunity to learn more about animal and human health, interact with veterinary students and faculty, and experience the college's state-of-the-art facilities. The event is also an opportunity for the college to showcase its educational programs to prospective students and donors. Moreover, the event is an excellent chance for families to have fun and learn together through various family-friendly activities.

Kristin McLaughlin, whose niece Claire McLaughlin is a student at the veterinary college, brought children Teagan and Wesson along with their grandmother.

“This is the best day of my life,” Kristin exclaimed as she held exotic animals.

She said for her son Wesson, “He came for the hedgehogs. He never held a hedgehog before in his life.”

Asked about the first-time experience, Wesson jumped up and down and smiled.

Written by Kevin Myatt, Writer/Editor for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

Girl with a painted tiger face holding a green, yellow, and orange parrat.
Exotics room at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine's Annual Open House event on Saturday, April 15, 2023. Photo by Andrew Mann for Virginia Tech.


Andrew Mann
Director of Communications and Marketing