AVMA Welfare Focus Newsletter - Directors Corner - December 2012

Gail C. Golab, PhD, DVM, MANZCVS
Director, Animal Welfare Division

Much has happened since the last edition of Welfare Focus. The AVMA website has been completely refurbished; the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia are on their way to publication (finally!); three days of welfare-related education were provided during the 2012 AVMA Convention; the Model Animal Welfare Curriculum Planning Group is in the midst of compiling its final report; the Panel on Humane Slaughter has completed a draft of its new guidelines (to be posted in early 2013 for member comment); and Animal Welfare Division staff and volunteers attended and provided information at a wide range of meetings and symposia. Examples of topics addressed by the latter include the management of outdoor cats, management and training of zoo animals, appropriate euthanasia techniques for laboratory animals, and consumer views and customer demands on food animal production. Our efforts to end soring also continue. Highlights include a visit to the 2012 Celebration to see what the industry was (not) doing to end this abusive practice, a meeting with USDA Undersecretary Edward Avalos to convey our support of continued strong enforcement of the Horse Protection Act as overseen by USDA-APHIS-AC Horse Protection Program staff, and a joint decision by AVMA and AAEP to support H.R. 6388, the amendments to the Horse Protection Act.

While we are definitely making progress on a number of fronts, it’s amazing how difficult conversations about animals’ welfare continue to be, even when they involve trusted colleagues. Anyone who has scrolled through comments on the AVMA@ Work or Facebook pages, attended animal welfare-related sessions at state veterinary association meetings or the AVMA Annual Convention, or followed correspondence in the Letters section of the JAVMA can attest to the debate that often ensues, whether the topic is housing, surgical/management procedures, or animal handling/training. Veterinarians are engaged in professional activities involving diverse species and practice settings and this can cause us to approach animal use and care decisions quite differently. And, because we’re all very busy, opportunities for engagement with our colleagues who reside in the other “worlds” of veterinary medicine may be infrequent—we may not realize that how we think about animals’ needs and how best to accommodate them is not a vision or experience that is universally shared. Veterinary medicine has a lot to contribute to animal welfare discussions, but it’s difficult to do so effectively if we don’t have a comprehensive and consistent vision for how we approach these issues. The good news is that AVMA leadership has recognized this and believes it’s time for veterinarians to have an intraprofessional conversation about how we approach animal welfare and why. The setting for our conversation will be a Summit conducted in the Chicago area in mid-2013. We’re still in the planning stages, but I encourage you to watch the AVMA website, AVMA@Work, the JAVMA and other AVMA communication vehicles for more information about the event, including your opportunity to participate.

Policy provides infrastructure for AVMA’s activities in animal welfare. Accordingly, the Animal Welfare Committee had a busy meeting the last weekend of September and sent fourteen recommendations to the Executive Board for consideration in November. Executive Board decisions resulted in reaffirmation of the following policies: Animal Welfare Principles, Ear Cropping and Tail Docking of Dogs, Humane Transport of Equines, Electroimmobilization, and Trapping and Steel-Jawed Leghold Traps; revisions of the following policies: Safety Testing, Castration and Dehorning of Cattle, and Declawing Captive Exotic and Wild Indigenous Cats; the approval of a new policy on Removal or Reduction of Teeth in Non-Human Primates and Carnivores, which supersedes previous policies on Removal or Reduction of Teeth of Dogs as a Method of Reducing Bite-Related Injuries and the Removal or Reduction of Canine Teeth in Captive Nonhuman Primates or Exotic and Wild (Indigenous) Carnivores; and re-endorsements of the following AAEP policies: Therapeutic Medications in Non-racing Performance Horses and Use of Horses in Urban Environments. A recommendation for AVMA membership in the Scientists Center for Animal Welfare was also approved. The Board forwarded AWC-recommended revisions to the policy on Devocalization and a new policy on Livestock Handling Tools to the House of Delegates for its consideration when it meets in January. We encourage AVMA members to provide input on welfare-related policies via our web portal and your next opportunity to do so will be in the spring of 2013.

That’s all until our next edition of Welfare Focus. I wish you happy holidays and a most joyous welcome to 2013!


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