AVMA Guidelines for Veterinarians and Veterinary Associations Working with Animal Control and Animal Welfare Organizations

Comment on this policy

Statement of Position

Veterinarians, veterinary associations, animal control agencies, and animal welfare organizations have a common bond in the preservation of the life, health, and general well-being of animals of all species.

Veterinary medical associations, animal control agencies, and animal welfare organizations should promote responsible animal ownership and proper, humane care of animals through published literature and individual counseling by their members and staff. Familiarity with the principles of shelter medicine will assist veterinarians in working effectively with animal shelters. Veterinarians should assist sheltering facilities in determining their capacity for humane care given available resources. The welfare of animals in animal shelters and in the community may be improved through the establishment and use of proactive preventive medicine protocols, such as vaccination on intake, effective cleaning and disinfection, and responsible population management.

Recommendations to Veterinarians and Veterinary Associations

It is recommended that veterinarians and veterinary associations participate in the activities of animal control and animal welfare organizations. This can best be accomplished through membership and active participation in animal control and animal welfare organizations and by promulgating current principles of shelter medicine and humane population management techniques.1,2 Veterinarians may offer advice, training, professional services, and veterinary skills to these organizations and/or their representatives.

Professional skills and services should be offered to animal control and animal welfare organizations, keeping in mind that the welfare of individual animals, animal populations within the shelter, and animal populations within the community must all be considered and balanced in light of available resources. When offering professional services to such organizations, a veterinarian's or veterinary association’s recommendations, decisions, and actions must conform to accepted standards of veterinary practice and the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Veterinarians and veterinary associations are encouraged to assist animal control and animal welfare organizations to provide special plans and/or services, such as health examinations, surgery, immunizations, and/or advice on matters such as sanitation and disease and parasite control. The scope of professional services and detailed contractual arrangements to provide these services must be worked out in advance to the mutual satisfaction of the animal control or animal welfare organization and the veterinarian or veterinary association concerned. Such plans and professional services, when agreed upon, must give the veterinarian responsibility for making medical recommendations in accord with patient and population needs. In addition, contractual agreements should be consistently adhered to and reviewed on a regular basis.

When a veterinarian is presented with an animal for evaluation and care, the veterinarian must confer with the responsible agent of the animal control or animal welfare organization and explain the diagnosis, recommend optional methods of treatment, if any, offer a prognosis, and discuss anticipated costs of treatment. The two parties should consult periodically on the progress of each case to preclude misunderstandings as to the extent of care, or the fees to be incurred. Fees for services should be determined by the veterinarian and the animal control or animal welfare organization as negotiable items. Veterinarians must not render less than their usual high quality services, regardless of the fee charged. Costs of treating the individual animal may negatively impact resources available to provide preventive services for the population and therefore decisions to treat individual animals must be considered in the context of the welfare of the entire population and the resources available to the animal welfare or animal control agency.

1. Association of Shelter Veterinarians. Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters. Available at http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/20241575/778874386/name/Shelter%20Standards%20Oct2011%20wForward.pdf. Accessed May 18, 2012.
2. Miller L, Zawistowski S (eds). Shelter Medicine for Veterinarians and Staff. Ames, Iowa: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.