State & Local Animal Welfare Issues


  • View all animal welfare policy statements
    See AVMA policy statements regarding animal welfare, covering a wide range of subjects such as physical restraint, euthanasia, animals used in research and teaching, animal abuse and animal neglect.

Animal cruelty



       State legislation to add antifreeze bittering agent
    There has been movement at both the state and federal levels to add a bittering agent (most commonly denatonium benzoate) to antifreeze in order to protect pets and small children from ingesting the substance. 

Certificates of veterinary inspection

  • Importation requirements for companion animals and equines
    In order to prevent the spread of animal diseases across state lines, state departments of agriculture and other state agencies have created rules and regulations which govern the importation of livestock, companion animals, equines, and other animals.

Companion animal care


      State regulation of companion animal breeders and dealers
    During the past few years, the regulation of high-volume dog breeders and dealers has become one of the most prominent issues in animal legislation. Increased media coverage of some of the worst breeding facilities in the country has motivated state legislators to increase regulation and penalties for high-volume breeders.
  • Companion animal care guidelines
    These general guidelines for the proper care and humane treatment of animals in nonagricultural facilities pertain to settings such as humane societies, municipal animal control agencies, pet stores, boarding kennels, dog training establishments, grooming facilities, dealers, and veterinary hospitals and clinics
  • Care for dogs
    Dogs that are bred and intended to be kept as pets require a basic standard of care for their well being and to ensure they possess the temperament and good health necessary to become successful companion animals. To assist state and local governments in designing effective policies to enforce reasonable welfare standards for breeder and retailer operations, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has developed model legislation and accompanying regulations.
  • Pet purchase protection laws
    Some states have so-called "lemon" laws that provide legal recourse to people who purchase animals from pet dealers, later found to have a disease or defect.
  • Resource guidance for pet purchase protection laws
    Although the AVMA has not established policy on pet purchase protection laws, nor adopted model legislation, the purpose of this document is to describe the issues that veterinarians and their associations may wish to consider if related legislation is introduced in their state.

Elective surgical procedures

Several states regulate veterinary procedures commonly referred to as "elective," such as tail docking, ear cropping, devocalization and cat declawing.      


  • Canine devocalization, AVMA position on
    Canine devocalization should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians as a final alternative.


  • Declawing of domestic cats, AVMA position on
    Declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents a zoonotic risk for its owner(s). 

          Tail docking, ear cropping

  • Ear cropping and tail docking of dogs, AVMA position on
    Ear cropping and tail docking in dogs for cosmetic reasons are not medically indicated nor of benefit to the patient. These procedures cause pain and distress, and, as with all surgical procedures, are accompanied by inherent risks.
  • Tail docking of cattle, AVMA position on
    The AVMA opposes routine tail docking of cattle. Current scientific literature indicates that routine tail docking provides no benefit to the animal, and that tail docking can lead to distress during fly seasons.

Feral cats

  • Free-roaming abandoned and feral cats, AVMA position on
    The AVMA encourages and supports actions to eliminate the problem of free-roaming abandoned and feral cats. As a result of irresponsible societal attitudes, millions of these cats exist in the United States. Unfortunately, most of these cats will suffer premature mortality from disease, starvation, or trauma. 

Foie gras


  • Induced molting of layer chickens, AVMA position on
    Molting is a natural seasonal event in which birds substantially reduce their feed intake, cease egg production, and replace their plumage. Induced molting is a process that simulates natural molting events. Induced molting extends the productive life of commercial chicken flocks.
  • Pregnant sow housing, AVMA position on
    The AVMA recognizes that veterinarians approach the issue of pregnant sow housing from different viewpoints based on personal and societal values. This position statement is based on consideration of animal welfare as assessed through the scientific literature and professional judgment and experience.
  • A comprehensive review of housing for pregnant sows(PDF)
    The AVMA Task Force on the Housing of Pregnant Sows conducted a thorough and objective review of the scientific evidence relating to the impact on the health and welfare of keeping breeding sows in gestation stalls. 

      Confinement rearing – state ballot initiatives, legislation and court activity
    Interest groups challenging housing and confinement of various farm animals have used a variety of legal and policy tools to pursue their goals.

      Ballot initiatives and lawsuits challenging agricultural practices
    Interest groups are increasingly using ballot initiatives and lawsuits to bypass state legislatures. The AVMA provides an analysis of recent activities in these areas.

      Legislating livestock care standards
    This article summarizes new legislation regarding the development of state agencies which establish livestock care standards. It also highlights legislation which limits the authority of local governments to adopt livestock care standards.
  • Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board
    Effective Standards

Pet trusts



      Mandatory spay/neuter laws
    This is a summary of state and local regulation concerning mandatory spay and neuter of animals, along with AVMA policies.