AVMA welfare positions evolve
New position on tail docking of cattle amended, other positions adopted
On the basis of current scientific literature, the AVMA has adopted a new position statement opposing routine tail docking of cattle.
At its April meeting, the Executive Board approved the new position; rescinded an existing position on swine housing, flooring, environmental control, and stocking density; and amended positions on early-age spay/neuter and the removal or reduction of canine teeth in captive nonhuman primates or exotic and wild (indigenous) carnivores.
The AVMA Animal Welfare Committee recommended the new position statement. The Milk and Dairy Beef Quality Assurance Center also discourages tail docking. The new AVMA position is:
Tail Docking of Cattle
The AVMA opposes routine tail docking of cattle. Current scientific literature indicates that routine tail docking provides no benefit to the animal, and that tail docking can lead to distress during fly seasons. When medically necessary, amputation of tails must be performed by a licensed veterinarian.
The board rescinded the existing position statement on "Swine Housing, Flooring, Environmental Control, and Stocking Density." The position was based on the standards outlined by the North Central Extension Agricultural Engineers' Midwest Service Plan, which have since become outdated. The AVMA Animal Welfare Committee recommended that the position be rescinded until the standards are updated, new standards can be selected for endorsement, or the AVMA can develop its own science-based standards.
The AVMA is currently addressing the controversy surrounding pregnant sow housing, and has recently created a task force to review the scientific literature on the welfare of sows kept in gestation stalls. For more information on the task force, see page 1730.
The board voted to amend the AVMA's position on "Early-Age (Prepubertal) Spay/Neuter of Dogs and Cats." The Animal Welfare Committee recommended that the position be amended because, as it was written, it recommended gonadectomy, but did not address the removal of associated reproductive structures (i.e., as in a ovariohysterectomy), which is still considered the standard of practice in the United States. The amended position reads:
Early-Age (Prepubertal) Spay/Neuter of Dogs and Cats
The AVMA supports the concept of early (prepubertal, 8 to 16 weeks of age) spay/neuter in dogs and cats in an effort to reduce the number of unwanted animals of these species. Just as for other veterinary medical and surgical procedures, veterinarians should use their best medical judgment in deciding at what age spay/neuter should be performed on individual animals.
Additionally, the board voted to amend the AVMA's position on the "Reduction and Removal of Canine Teeth in Captive Nonhuman Primates or Exotic and Wild (Indigenous) Carnivores."
The Animal Welfare Committee members recommended the change after a diplomate of the American Veterinary Dental College contacted them and expressed concern that the anatomic and surgical terms used in the existing position statement were not completely accurate. The amended statement below uses more accurate language:
Removal or Reduction of Canine Teeth in Captive Nonhuman Primates or Exotic and Wild (Indigenous) Carnivores
The AVMA is opposed to removal or reduction of canine teeth in captive nonhuman primates or exotic and wild (indigenous) carnivores, except when required for medical treatment or scientific research approved by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Reduction that does not expose the pulp cavity may be acceptable. Removal of these teeth or reduction that exposes the pulp cavity, without endodontic treatment, may result in oral pathologic conditions and pain.
To minimize bite wounds, recommended alternatives to dental surgery include behavioral modification, environmental enrichment, and changes in group composition.