Establishing Public Policy To Ensure Animal Well Being

Comment on this policy


The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) supports the legislative process and the use of appropriately constituted expert bodies to establish public policy on animal welfare.  Government appointed standard-setting or advisory bodies should strive for continual improvement of animal care systems through comprehensive evaluations based on sound science, with appropriate consideration for the practical implementation of their recommendations and societal preferences regarding animal use. Standard-setting bodies, and related public policy, should preferably be established through legislative and regulatory processes, which include opportunities for appropriate stakeholder engagement.

The AVMA recognizes the value of ballot initiatives, which can provide an important opportunity for direct public engagement  however AVMA does have reservations with using ballot initiatives to establish public policy on issues of animal welfare  in that such issues often do not lend themselves to "yes" or "no" answers. Ballot initiatives have significant challenges in  addressing complex issues (e.g., setting animal care standards) in that they can be  narrow in their mechanism of effect, and , and offer limited opportunities for comprehensive expert input prior to determination by the voting public.

To achieve their desired objectives, legislative or regulatory actions related to animal care and welfare should arise from an open exchange of information and perspectives by all interested parties. This approach enhances the prospects of consensus and a greater understanding of animal needs and industry practices.

Composition of Standard-Setting Bodies

Representation on standard-setting bodies established via legislative and regulatory processes should be well-balanced, both in technical expertise and viewpoint. Balance is essential to ensure good outcomes for animal care and to achieve public acceptability and support.

Technical expertise on standard-setting bodies allows animal care decisions to be made that appropriately address the variety of factors impacting animal well being, including access to quality food and water in appropriate amounts; protection of animals from disease, injury, predators, and adverse environmental conditions; provision of sufficient space and opportunity to allow animals to perform necessary species-typical behaviors; proper handling and transportation; and, when needed, timely euthanasia. As animal care experts, veterinarians and animal welfare scientists bring to the table not only their technical understanding of animals' physical and mental needs, but also an appropriate focus on balancing those needs with animal use practicalities and public expectations. Veterinarians and animal welfare scientists, have been professionally trained to responsibly advance animal care, and should thereby be given substantial opportunity for representation.

Varying constituencies and viewpoints should have representation on standard-setting bodies, to facilitate a complete discourse of pertinent issues.  In addition to veterinarians and animal welfare scientists membership should include practical expertise from the animal use industries, as well as individuals representing animal protection groups and the general public.