Veterinarians are key to ensuring animal health and well-being
"Veterinarians must take a leadership role in supporting programs that ensure the health and welfare of animals used in entertainment just as they support efforts to improve the lives of animals used for food, in research, and as companions," said AVMA President Joe M. Howell.
The veterinary profession has long supported humane treatment initiatives in these other sectors, but perhaps as whole, hasn't been as visibly engaged in efforts to promote the welfare of animals featured in zoos, circuses, rodeos, racing, and increasingly in television and movies, according to Dr. Howell.
"We've always been supportive of animal welfare programs for food, laboratory, and companion animals," the Oklahoma City practitioner said. "But I feel, at times, that our support of programs for animals used for entertainment has not been as apparent."
"We must encourage the highest level of animal health and welfare for all animals, irrespective of their purpose," he continued.
In December, Dr. Howell attended the national rodeo finals of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The following month, he visited the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Center for Elephant Conservation. He was impressed by the animal welfare guidelines and quality of veterinary care provided by both groups, as well as the importance their staff placed on animal care and well-being.
"Guidelines such as those issued by the PRCA and Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus can serve as effective models for other groups and individuals using animals in entertainment," Dr. Howell said.
Unfortunately, not all animals used in entertainment are treated as well, and lapses in quality care have been and are being used by some animal protection groups and animal rights activists as support for their belief that animal use should be restricted. According to Dr. Howell, veterinarians must be aware of the welfare needs of all animals, including entertainment animals, and be prepared to serve as resources for groups and individuals as they develop and apply guidelines for responsible use. "Only by providing our expertise can we ensure that animal well-being is protected and that responsible animal use continues to be publicly accepted," he stated.