June 15, 2005


 AVMA Answers


Posted June 1, 2005

Q:  What do you envision as the purpose of the new AVMA Animal Welfare Division?
Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver, AVMA president, responds:  

A:   Animal welfare is an important part of veterinary medicine, and the AVMA has always had a unique role in helping shape this area. Because of that, what the veterinary profession needs—and the reason the division was created—is to be able to coordinate, in one place, efforts directed at making sure that quality animal welfare messages are reaching the public, as well as veterinarians.

Q:  How soon will the division be up and running?
A:   Efforts to recruit the division director are currently under way. You name the director first, which is logical, and then that person oversees recruitment for the rest of the positions. In an ideal world, I would want the division operating now. But it's best to get the right people in the right positions to complement the AVMA's ongoing activities in animal welfare.

Q:  Were you surprised by the reaction of certain allied groups to the Executive Board's decision last November to replace the Animal Welfare Committee with the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee? (Note—the Executive Board in April reinstated the Animal Welfare Committee and postponed the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee until 2007.)
A:   The allied groups' concern was that, with the new committee, their voices weren't going to be heard, even though they have been focused on animal welfare issues for a long time, ranging from laboratory animals to food animals. It wasn't necessarily that they were opposed to the AWAC, but they wanted to be sure that their voices were a major part of any AVMA animal welfare initiatives. In addition, there were a lot of other unrelated proposals coming before the board at the same time, resulting in a perception that the allied groups' views and input would be diminished overall. So in order to give them a comfort level, we continued the current Animal Welfare Committee and slightly tweaked the composition of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee to meet some of those concerns.

Q:  How do you see the AWC and AWAC working together?
A:   The mission for each committee is different. The AWC addresses current topics of concern in animal welfare. The AWAC is charged to be a visioning group and look at the challenges that might be coming down the road, so in many ways, they complement each other. With the AWC, when you're dealing with a group that has 16 members, it is important to spend time listening to what's happening in each specific area represented. It's hard for a group that size to be visionary. The AWAC is charged to be visionary and ask, what are the challenges that are coming, where are they coming from, and how can we position ourselves to address them? So, the AWC is more of a scanning group, and the AWAC will function more as an advisory group to the new Animal Welfare Division.

Also, there will be a meeting every year of the AWAC with the chairs of the welfare committees of the allied groups, plus two chairs from among some state animal welfare committees. This way, there's a broad scanning that will occur regarding issues coming up not only in parts of the country but also among the various allied areas, so that we get a lot of input. The more people involved, the better we'll be able to address the animal welfare issues that we need to be addressing. Input will be provided by the newly created Animal Welfare Governance Task Force, too.

Q:  Do you feel you've accomplished what you set out to do when you became president last July?
A:   This is not a Bonnie Beaver issue; this is an AVMA issue. The topic of animal welfare was identified as a high-priority topic by the Executive Board and AVMA members. I just happen to be in a position to work on it as AVMA president. It's going to be 2007 or beyond before we'll really know what has or has not been accomplished. I think the AVMA has taken a major step in addressing the animal welfare needs of the profession, the public, and the animals we serve. Certainly the response I've received from members has been very favorable in how we're positioning ourselves. This is something that is needed and is supported by the membership of AVMA. Of course, everyone has a slightly different vision of welfare, and we won't all agree all the way along. But it's for the common good. There's a lot yet to be done in this area.