Positions adopted to protect animal welfare

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Seven recommendations from the Animal Welfare Committee involving AVMA positions intended to safeguard animal welfare received Executive Board action.

Canine devocalization
The board approved the following AVMA position statement:

Canine devocalization should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians as a final alternative after behavioral modification efforts to correct excessive vocalization have failed.

Information collected by the committee indicates that only a small number of legitimate devocalization procedures are performed on dogs, i.e., after behavioral modification efforts to correct excessive vocalization fail. Nonlegitimate requests are still a problem, however, and unscrupulous individuals may request the procedure.

The committee also was advised that devocalizing Beagles used in biomedical research is no longer common practice, and that surgical procedures used to treat airway diseases differ in some way from the procedure known as devocalization.

Disabled livestock
Although the existing position statement clearly distinguished between ambulatory and nonambulatory disabled animals, it did not distinguish between terminal and nonterminal markets. The suggested revisions received favorable review from the AABP animal welfare committee and were approved by the AVMA Executive Board:

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

  • 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.

  • 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 euthanatized immediately or humanely slaughtered on the farm (where state laws permit).

If an animal is down at a nonterminal market (e.g., sale yard or auction)

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 euthanatized immediately.

If an animal is down at a terminal market (e.g., slaughterhouse or packing plant)

The animal should be euthanatized immediately.

Care and use of animals in motion pictures and television productions
To strengthen this AVMA position statement and eliminate ambiguities associated with use of the phrase "entertainment media," the committee recommended that it be revised, and the board approved the changes. The new position states:

The AVMA encourages the humane care and use of animals in motion pictures and television productions and condemns the mistreatment or abuse of animals in any manner.

Although the revised statement no longer refers to the American Humane Association, the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee was careful to note that it believes that existing AHA guidelines and audit procedures continue to be appropriate.

Toxicity testing
The board also approved revisions to this position statement, which now reads:

The AVMA supports the research and development of safe and efficacious drugs, vaccines, chemical compounds, and medical devices that benefit humans and animals through humane and responsible safety testing, using scientifically valid principles and procedures.

The AVMA supports research, development, and validation of alternative testing methods that replace animals, reduce the numbers of animals used, and/or refine animal use to minimize pain and/or distress. The AVMA endorses the activities of the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (established by Public Law 106-545), which are designed to evaluate the scientific validity of new alternative test methods. However, the AVMA will continue to oppose legislation that seeks to eliminate animal-based safety assessment unless that legislation is based on sound scientific principles.

Use of animals in precollege education
The board approved endorsement of an extensive position statement developed and recently updated by the Institute of Laboratory Animal Research, Commission on Life Sciences, National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. A copy of the full position statement is available from the AVMA Communications Division, Ext. 6666.

Commercial pet production and dealers covered by the Animal Welfare Act and pet shops
The board approved the committee's recommendation to rescind a position statement on this subject because it is out of date. The committee is in the process of developing a new position statement addressing these issues.

Monkey surgical procedures
The board decided not to rescind this position statement:

The AVMA is opposed to the surgical removal of the tails of prehensile-tailed monkeys. The tail of this type of monkey serves as an essential appendage, and veterinarians should not remove it either for cosmetic purposes or for the owner's convenience.

The committee had recommended rescindment because when the position was originally approved in 1973, the procedure was commonly performed to address problems caused by poor cage design and inadequate space allocation. Improved cage designs and increased space have eliminated the need for surgical removal of tails, the committee stated. Board members noted, however, that owners still sometimes request that veterinarians remove the tail, a practice the AVMA opposes.