AVMA Answers

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AVMA Answers

How does the AVMA develop its animal welfare positions? How can individuals or outside groups get involved?

 Dr. Gail Golab,
assistant director of
professional and public
affairs and staff
consultant to the
Animal Welfare

Processes used to develop AVMA positions on animal welfare are similar to those used to create all AVMA positions and policies.

An AVMA animal welfare position is adopted after approval by either the Executive Board or the House of Delegates. For example, the AVMA's position on pain in animals was developed by its Animal Welfare Committee and approved by the Executive Board. Its position on induced molting of layer chickens was developed as a joint effort by the American Association of Avian Pathologists and the Association of Avian Veterinarians and approved by the House of Delegates. Resolutions considered by the HOD may be submitted by the Executive Board, organizations represented in the HOD, and the House Advisory Committee, or via petition from members when accompanied by signatures from 50 active members. Recommendations for Executive Board consideration may be submitted by the House Advisory Committee, councils, committees, commissions, task forces, operational divisions, or board members. Once a position or policy has been established, either mechanism can be used to modify it.

Most of the AVMA's positions on animal welfare have been researched and developed by the AWC, as is consistent with this group's charge and its members' expertise. Typically, AVMA members or AVMA entities interested in developing or modifying AVMA animal welfare positions will convey their wishes to the AWC. Ultimately, AVMA animal welfare positions are developed and adopted on the basis of available scientific knowledge, with consideration for professional judgment and the ethical, philosophic, and moral values inherent in the veterinary profession.

In terms of its internal processes, the AWC first considers whether the issue is germane to the practice of veterinary medicine. If "yes," a literature review is typically conducted and input from appropriate sources is solicited. In addition to seeking information from other AVMA entities, committee members obtain information from governmental agencies or nongovernmental organizations. Because each issue is thoroughly addressed, the period between initial consideration and adoption of a position may be longer than some may expect.

AVMA positions and policies are reviewed periodically. The recent revision of the AVMA's position on declawing of domestic cats emerged as part of a mandatory review process for all AVMA positions and policies. This revision was particularly timely because some states and municipalities were considering legislation to ban the procedure.

It's important for AVMA members to understand that if they have a particular concern about some aspect of animal welfare, or another issue affecting the profession, there is a mechanism through which they may express that concern. AVMA members may contact the AWC (or another AVMA council or committee appropriate to the subject of their concern), their Executive Board district representative, or their HOD state veterinary medical association and allied group representatives and request that an issue be addressed. They may also provide that contact person with a draft position or policy they would like to see adopted. Position statements and policies have also been created after receiving requests for a position or information from other AVMA entities, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, AVMA members, and concerned members of the public.