Member interests drive House of Delegates action

Published on January 14, 2020

House of Delegates members participate in the winter meeting.

Member input is a central component of the AVMA’s approach to governance. When your AVMA House of Delegates (HOD) gathers twice a year to conduct association business and consider policies, the interests of our members drive conversation, deliberation and action.

This commitment to representing member interests was clear when HOD members spent significant time discussing the AVMA’s Policy on Declawing of Domestic Cats, which was updated at their meeting Jan. 10-11 in Chicago. While the core meaning and intent of the policy have not changed, the revised version reminds veterinarians that declawing should not be considered a routine procedure and emphasizes the importance of professional judgment and client education in making decisions that best protect the health and welfare of individual patients.

The new policy reads:

“The AVMA discourages the declawing (onychectomy) of cats as an elective procedure and supports non-surgical alternatives to the procedure. The AVMA respects the veterinarian’s right to use professional judgment when deciding how to best protect their individual patients’ health and welfare. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the veterinarian to counsel the owner about the natural scratching behavior of cats, the alternatives to surgery, as well as the details of the procedure itself and subsequent potential complications. Onychectomy is a surgical amputation and if performed, multi-modal perioperative pain management must be utilized.”

Sharing progress and good news

The meeting also helped usher in an exciting start to the new year. In 2020, the AVMA will build on its strong performance in 2019 for members and the association.

As part of the HOD’s Plenary Session, delegates heard good news about AVMA membership and other developments that will benefit members.

For starters, the House of Delegates heard that AVMA membership is stronger than ever, with the association’s official membership setting a new record at more than 95,300. Three out of every four veterinarians are members of the AVMA, and to have three-fourths of all U.S. veterinarians standing side-by-side and representing the profession is critical to our success.

HOD members also heard updates on many of the AVMA’s member-focused initiatives in 2019, including our digital education platform, AVMA Axon; our Direct Connect practice resource; our wellbeing and recent graduate initiatives; and our efforts related to advocacy and public policy.

Tackling today’s issues: The Veterinary Information Forum

During the House of Delegates’ business meeting, the HOD’s Veterinary Information Forum was devoted to three topics. The topics generated extensive member interest through an email effort from the delegates to their constituents that resulted in more than 300 responses. The topics included:

  • Student Externs/Practice Volunteers and Potential Liability
  • Connected Care/Telehealth
  • Cannabis

In regard to the student extern/practice volunteer topic, it was agreed that the veterinary work experience prior to and during clinical time in colleges of veterinary medicine has tremendous value. These experiences are part of the non-academic evaluation; give an understanding of our profession; provide to the students and volunteers a degree of comfort with animals in the clinical setting; and provide some basic technical skills and insight into the veterinary working world. But such arrangements may also carry risk, particularly in the case of injury and determination of liability.

In an effort to better understand and address these issues, the HOD voted to request that the AVMA Board of Directors consider the development of a toolkit, including potential forms and an awareness campaign, for the protection of practitioners, students and other members of the veterinary health care team.

In the area of telehealth, the HOD heard an update on AVMA activities in 2019 that included support for state veterinary medical associations as they engaged with regulators; communication and collaboration with industry; and further development of member-focused resources, including continuing education and online resources. The HOD thanked the association for all the work done to address this important issue and urged the AVMA to continue its work to develop guidelines on telehealth and connected care.

The HOD also heard an update on the association’s efforts related to the growing interest in therapeutic applications of cannabis and cannabis-derived products in veterinary medicine. While the House made no specific recommendations related to cannabis, the AVMA remains committed in 2020 to advocacy for regulatory clarity and the development of additional member-focused resources and education.

Also included in the Veterinary Information Forum were updates on important issues related to sexual harassment in the workplace and the utilization of veterinary technicians.

The HOD passed a resolution during its 2019 annual meeting recognizing that sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue and asking the AVMA Board of Directors to develop supporting resources and report back to the House. In response, the AVMA will work in 2020 to update the AVMA web site to include additional resources on the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as include sexual harassment education in AVMA continuing education programs. In addition, the AVMA will explore identifying specific workplace harassment training programs to recommend to veterinary practices. A review of the AVMA policy on Harassment and Discrimination-Free Veterinary Workplace also will occur.

A summary of the AVMA Task Force on Veterinary Technician Utilization report was also shared with House members. The report focused on veterinary technician education, licensing and regulation, economics, supply and attrition, and wellness. The report will now be shared with the AVMA’s Council on Veterinary Service, Veterinary Economic Strategy Committee, and Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities, as well as the AVMA/National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America Leadership Committee, and other entities as appropriate for their consideration.

Other House Actions

HOD members also approved:

  • Resolution 1: AVMA Policy on Use of Technology in Veterinary Medicine, which states, in part: “The AVMA affirms and encourages the responsible and ethical development and use of technology for a variety of applications in veterinary medicine that can benefit and protect public health, animal health and welfare, and environmental health.”
  • Resolution 2:  AVMA Policy on Cribbing in Horses, which states, in part: “The AVMA condemns the use of hog rings or other devices placed around the teeth to prevent cribbing in horses. These devices are detrimental to the welfare and health of the horse due to the potential to cause persistent pain, damage to the gingiva, periodontal disease and abrasive wear to adjacent teeth. The AVMA encourages research to understand and address the underlying causes of cribbing.”
  • Resolution 4: Revised Policy on Microchips, which states, in part: “The AVMA endorses the implantation of electronic identification in companion animals and equids and supports standardization in materials, procedures, equipment, and registries. Veterinary healthcare teams are thereby encouraged to recommend the implantation of electronic identification of animals to their clients.”

Recognition of service/Election results

The HOD recognized Kyre Larrabee, as her term as delegate from the Student AVMA ended.

The House elected Drs. Miles Theurer and Mila Kundu to the AVMA Council on Research.