January 15, 2013

 
EXECUTIVE BOARD

 Single policy on teeth reduction and removal adopted

Posted on December 31, 2012
 


The AVMA has a new policy concerning teeth removal and reduction in nonhuman primates and carnivores that replaces two related policies.

The Executive Board approved the Animal Welfare Committee’s recommendation to adopt “Removal or Reduction of Teeth in Non-Human Primates and Carnivores.” The board action means the new policy supersedes “Removal or Reduction of Teeth of Dogs as a Method of Reducing Bite-Related Injuries” and “Removal or Reduction of Canine Teeth in Captive Nonhuman Primates or Exotic and Wild (Indigenous) Carnivores.”
 
The new AVMA policy reads as follows:
 
AVMA POLICY

Removal or Reduction of Teeth in Non-Human Primates and Carnivores

The AVMA is opposed to removal or reduction of healthy teeth in nonhuman primates and carnivores, except when required for medical treatment or approved scientific research. Animals may still cause severe injury with any remaining teeth and this approach does not address the cause of the behavior. Removal or reduction of teeth for nonmedical reasons may also create oral pathologic conditions. To minimize injury, recommended alternatives to dental surgery include behavioral assessment and modification, environmental enrichment, changes in group composition and improved animal housing and handling techniques.
 
The Animal Welfare Committee concluded that the two policies on teeth removal and reduction could be replaced with a single, comprehensive policy addressing nonhuman primates and domestic and exotic carnivores, according to the background information provided in the committee’s recommendation to the board.
 
Committee members considered the rationale generally provided for removal or reduction of teeth for nontherapeutic purposes as well as related policies provided by the American Veterinary Dental College and the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, the recommendation stated. While the AWC recognized the considerable skill of veterinary dentists, the consensus was that this practice remains poorly justified, does not protect humans from associated risks, and may create additional risks for affected animals.
 
The AWC believes ownership of an animal known to be dangerous carries with it a responsibility to manage the animal humanely; doing so may require considerable expertise and resources, according to the recommendation. Where risk of bite injury is inherent or it is not possible to  mitigate, contact between human handlers and conscious, unrestrained animals known to be dangerous should be avoided.
 
The committee recommendation noted problems associated with teeth removal or reduction include not only impaired function of the animal and risks of oral pathology but also retention of a dangerous animal in a home or other setting where it cannot be safely managed.