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

Comment on this policy

The AVMA recommends that veterinarians, veterinary medical associations, animal control agencies, and animal welfare organizations should collectively promote responsible animal ownership and humane care of animals. To work effectively with animal shelters, veterinarians should have familiarity with the principles of shelter medicine through review of published literature and continuing education. This may be accomplished through membership and active participation in animal control and animal welfare organizations as well as by encouraging current principles of shelter medicine and humane population management techniques.1,2,3

Veterinarians can be a valuable resource to shelter organizations 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. The scope of professional services and detailed contractual arrangements to provide these services should be worked out in advance to the mutual satisfaction of the animal control or animal welfare organization and the veterinarian or veterinary association concerned. When offering professional services to such organizations, a veterinarian's decisions, and actions must conform to accepted standards of veterinary practice and the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics of the American Veterinary Medical Association.  

When a veterinarian is presented with an animal for evaluation and care, the veterinarian should 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. It is recognized that decisions to treat individual animals may at times need to 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%20w Forward.pdf. Accessed May 18, 2012.

2. Miller L, Zawistowski S, eds. Shelter medicine for veterinarians and staff. 2nd ed. Ames, Iowa: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013[S1] ;349-371.

3. Hurley, KF. Outbreak management. In: Miller L, Hurley K, eds. Infectious disease management in animal shelters. Ames, IA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009;39-49.


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