AVMA positions address animal welfare concerns

Published on July 01, 2001
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

The Executive Board approved two new position statements, revised two others, and endorsed two positions of an allied group in June.

Copies of animal welfare position statements are available by calling AVMA headquarters, (800) 248-2862, ext 211.

Position focuses on canine passenger safety
Most owners who place their dogs at risk of injury by transporting them in open cargo areas of pickup trucks do so because they do not understand the risks. Over a year ago, the Executive Board considered a proposed position statement on canine passenger safety but disapproved it, seeing it as too restrictive. The board asked that it be reworked to permit exceptions for working dogs in rural communities.

At the June meeting, the board reviewed a new version and, after some debate, approved it. The new AVMA position states:

Transport of Dogs in Open Cargo Areas of Pickup Trucks
The AVMA acknowledges that transport of dogs, loose or tethered, in open cargo areas of pickup trucks may not be safe. Properly secured, size-appropriate kennels that are adequately ventilated are the preferred means of transport of live dogs.

There was concern on the part of some board members that the position could be overly restrictive for farmers or that is goes too far by calling for transport in kennels, when states such as California already have tethering laws. But the consensus was, as Dr. Henry E. Childers (District I) said, "We need to look at what's in the best interest of animals, not a popularity decision."

Disabled livestock statement now makes distinction
The board approved the replacement of the existing AVMA position statement on "Disabled Livestock" with a new version that clearly distinguishes between ambulatory and nonambulatory disabled animals. Dr. Roger K. Mahr, Executive Board (District V) liaison to the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, advised the board that the AABP supports the new statement.

In recommending the new statement, the Animal Welfare Committee acknowledged that it is difficult to move nonambulatory and severely disabled, or downed, animals humanely prior to euthanasia. The United Stockyards Corporation and the Livestock Conservation Institute estimate that downed animals comprise about 0.1 percent of all animals sent to livestock markets.

The new AVMA position states:

Disabled Livestock
The AVMA recommends that disabled livestock be handled humanely in all situations.

I. Ambulatory Animals
If an otherwise healthy animal has been recently injured, and the animal is ambulatory, it should be treated, shipped directly to a state or federally inspected slaughter plant, humanely slaughtered on the farm (where state laws permit) or euthanatized. Injured ambulatory animals should not be commingled with other animals during transport.

Care should be taken during loading, unloading, and handling of these animals to prevent further injury or stress.

II. Nonambulatory Animals
If an animal is down on a farm—If the animal is not in extreme distress and continues to eat and drink, the producer should contact a veterinarian for assistance and provide food, water, shelter, and appropriate nursing care to keep the animal comfortable.

If the animal is in extreme distress and the condition is obviously irreversible, the animal should be immediately euthanatized or humanely slaughtered on the farm.

If an animal is down at a market—If the animal is not in extreme distress, but is disabled, treatment measures should be initiated.

If the animal is in extreme distress or the condition is obviously irreversible, the animal should be immediately euthanatized or humanely slaughtered.

Position encourages owners to keep cats indoors
A new position statement titled "Free-roaming, Owned Cats," which the Executive Board approved, states: "The AVMA strongly encourages owners of domestic cats in urban and suburban areas to keep them indoors."

The life expectancy of an outdoor cat is two to five years, whereas indoor cats may survive for 17 or more years. Free-roaming cats are in danger of injury or death caused by vehicles, attacks by other animals, human cruelty, poisons, traps, and disease. They also have increased potential to transmit or serve as reservoirs for some zoonoses.

Trapping position encompasses more than leghold traps
The AVMA position on the use of steel-jaw leghold traps, which stated that "The AVMA considers the steel-jaw leghold trap to be inhumane," has been updated with a new statement that addresses the broader issue of trapping.

The new statement supports the AVMA position on steel-jaw leghold traps but also recognizes the value of other trapping methods in managing populations of animals. The new position states:

Wildlife populations may exceed the carrying capacity of their habitat and the AVMA recognizes that trapping is a useful and necessary method for managing these populations. Trapping devices that cause instant death or work on the principle of live capture without pain or injury are acceptable. The AVMA encourages the development of trapping devices that meet these criteria and recommends phasing out trapping devices that do not meet these criteria. The AVMA considers the steel jaw leghold trap to be inhumane.

AVMA endorses AAEP policies on pregnant mare urine collection, racehorse medication
Relying on allied group expertise, the Executive Board, on recommendation of the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee, decided to endorse two policies of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, rather than have separate AVMA positions.

First, the board endorsed the AAEP's position statement on management of horses used in the pregnant mare urine collection industry. Over the past year, the AVMA has received numerous inquiries from veterinarians and the public about the Association's position on this issue. The AVMA has not had a position.

The care of horses used in the PMU collection industry is becoming an important and visible animal welfare issue. Premarin is being used more often to treat incontinence and dermatologic conditions in companion animals. It is also the most prescribed drug for women's hormone replacement.

In considering whether to recommend an AVMA position, the Animal Welfare Committee reviewed extensive reports on PMU ranching and sought the counsel of an international expert in the care of horses used in this industry. Ultimately, committee members decided the most appropriate course of action would be to recommend that the board defer to the AAEP position. They believe it represents current knowledge and is in keeping with good veterinary practice. The AAEP conducted fact-finding missions before developing its position.

The AAEP position, now endorsed by the AVMA, states:

Management of Mares Used in the Pregnant Mare Urine (PMU) Collection Industry
Through on-site investigations and peer review of ongoing research, the American Association of Equine Practitioners believes the collection of urine from pregnant mares and care of their offspring as prescribed by the recommended Code of Practice represents responsible management of horses to produce a commodity for the benefit of mankind that should not result in abuse, neglect, or inhumane treatment of horses.

The board also endorsed the AAEP's policy on medication of racehorses after rescinding the AVMA's position statement on the issue. The former AVMA position had stated that the AVMA opposed the use of drugs to alter the normal racing performance of the horse.

The AAEP's detailed "Policy on Therapeutic Medications in Racehorses" can be found at www.aaep.org.