Board approves recommendations with teeth

Published on June 15, 2007
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An engaging new interactive resource has the potential to make a meaningful dent in the nation's alarming number of dog bite victims, estimated at 4.7 million last year.

The AVMA Executive Board signed on to a project with The Blue Dog Trust to instruct the most common victims—young children—and their parents on preventing dog bite injury. It was among the recommendations approved by the board May 31-June 1 in Schaumburg, Ill.

Other actions included revising certain animal welfare policies, including an animal fighting policy that encourages veterinarians to collaborate with law enforcement.

The agenda was gentle on the budget, however, as the board spent only $17,290 from the contingency fund, leaving $204,350 in the fund for this year. Dr. James O. Cook of District V, Lebanon, Ky., chaired the board.

The Blue Dog Parent Guide and CD use interactive, nonverbal computer animation in combination with written instruction to teach principles of dog bite injury prevention to children ages 3 to 6. A dog named Blue lives in a household with Simon, Sarah, their parents, and a cat. Children and a parent or other responsible adult view common situations they might face in a household with a dog and see the results of the choices they are asked to make.

Through a Committee on the Human-Animal Bond recommendation, the board accepted The Blue Dog Trust's invitation to serve as the U.S. licensee and distributor of this resource. The $8,500 cost to AVMA is seed money that will be offset by sales. In the background to their recommendation, committee members stated they were pleased with the quality of the final product and the rigorous testing that went into its development. To the committee's knowledge, the Blue Dog is the only dog bite injury prevention program that has been tested and validated by experts in child psychology and cognition.


Arrival date set for next CEO

Each year, the board elects or reelects the AVMA's executive staff officers. In June, the board reelected Dr. Bruce W. Little, who is retiring as CEO, as executive vice president, effective from July 14-Aug. 8. Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, who had been named Dr. Little's successor by the board in March, was elected in June to serve as EVP from Aug. 9, 2007, to July 2008. Dr. Janet D. Donlin was reelected assistant executive vice president and Dr. Bret D. Marsh as treasurer.    

Animal welfare policies

Several AVMA animal welfare policies were revisited. Four of them were revised. 

The board approved a revised policy on animal fighting that encourages veterinarians to collaborate with law enforcement with respect to recognition, enforcement, and education, as recommended by the Animal Welfare Committee. The background provided with the policy states that veterinarians must be trained to recognize injuries and other clinical signs consistent with animal fighting, and learn how to collect and preserve the chain of evidence. Several states mandate veterinarians to report suspected animal fighting.  

Animal Fighting

The AVMA condemns events involving animals in which injury or death is intended. The AVMA supports the enforcement of laws against the use and transport of animals and equipment for fighting ventures. Further, the AVMA recommends that animal fighting be considered a felony offense. The AVMA encourages veterinarians to collaborate with law enforcement with respect to recognition, enforcement, and education. 

The Animal Welfare Committee recommended reaffirmation of the existing policy on physical restraint of animals. The board did so but first amended the policy to add the phrase "should minimize fear, pain, stress and suffering for the animal."  

Physical Restraint of Animals  

Humane and safe physical restraint is the use of manual or mechanical means to limit some or all of an animal's normal voluntary movement for the purposes of examination, collection of samples, drug administration, therapy, or manipulation. The method used should provide the least restraint required to allow the specific procedure(s) to be performed properly, should minimize fear, pain, stress and suffering for the animal, and should protect both the animal and personnel from harm. In some situations, chemical restraint may be the preferred method. Whenever possible, restraint should be planned, formulated, and communicated prior to its application.

The board approved a revised policy on removal or reduction of canine teeth in captive nonhuman primates or exotic and wild (indigenous) carnivores. The Animal Welfare Committee recommended the revision to more clearly delineate the conditions under which reduction may be performed appropriately.  

Removal or Reduction of Canine Teeth in Captive Nonhuman Primates or Exotic and Wild (Indigenous) Carnivores  

The AVMA is opposed to removal of canine teeth in captive nonhuman primates or exotic and wild (indigenous) carnivores, except when required for medical treatment or scientific research approved by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Reduction of canine teeth may be necessary to address medical and approved scientific research needs, or animal or human safety concerns. If reductions expose the pulp cavity, endodontic procedures must be performed by a qualified person.

To minimize bite wounds, recommended alternatives to dental surgery include behavioral modification, environmental enrichment, and changes in group composition.

A clarified title and minor text change are reflected in the following policy.  

Regulations and Policies Regarding Animal Use

In exercising its leadership role in assuring the health and well-being of animal populations in the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association will work to prevent promulgation of regulations and implementation of policies that increase regulatory burden without clearly benefiting the welfare of animals or protecting the food supply and/or the public at large. As a matter or principle, the AVMA will promote the veterinary expertise of its members and their right to exercise professional judgment in using that expertise to ensure the appropriate care and treatment for animals under their charge. 

In a board reference committee, discussion of a recommendation to revise the policy "Castration and dehorning of cattle" centered on the pain and distress factor, and the dichotomy between the field realities and the AVMA's charge to develop animal welfare policies based on science. Dr. Douglas Aspros, District I, believes the AVMA should promote improvements when the science supports them, as the proposed policy revision does. He said, "Isn't one of our responsibilities to push the envelope?"

The discussion ended with the board referring the recommendation back to the Animal Welfare Committee. Although the American Association of Bovine Practitioners has had input through its representative to the AVMA-AWC during the three years it took to background and develop the revised policy, the board opted to give the AABP time to discuss the draft policy at its September conference. AVMA President-Elect Gregory S. Hammer said, "It is important we take every opportunity to draw on the expertise of our allied groups."

The board reaffirmed the AVMA policy "Medication of racehorses." The board rescinded the policy on "Animal welfare and animal rights" because the AVMA Animal Welfare Principles adopted last November endorse the philosophy of responsible animal use and are stronger, and it rescinded the policy "Monkey surgical procedures" because the AWC determined it is no longer needed.  

Welfare committee liaisons

The AVMA and Canadian VMA have found it of great value to occasionally send a representative to each other's animal welfare committee meetings. The board approved the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee's recommendation to create a formal liaison relationship with its CVMA counterpart, based on an invitation from the CVMA. The cost to AVMA will be about $1,000 per year for travel.  

Charitable giving policy

The board approved a policy on AVMA charitable giving.   

AVMA Charitable Giving

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognizes its duty to respond to disasters involving AVMA members, or for more general humanitarian purposes involving veterinarians or animals. Requests for financial assistance in emergency or disaster situations should be directed to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF), and funded by that organization. AVMA fully supports the efforts of the AVMF through the provision of infrastructure and facilities, and by championing the fundraising campaigns and activities of the Foundation.  

2007 resolutions  

The board recommended that the HOD disapprove Resolution 1, submitted by petition of AVMA members. It resolves "that the AVMA opposes the practice of artificially force feeding ducks and geese to produce foie gras because of the adverse effects on the birds' health and welfare associated with this practice." 

Resolution 2, submitted by eight state VMAs, resolves "that the AVMA endorses the use of microchip registration databases strictly for reuniting animals and owners and opposes their use as a source for marketing or referrals of other products and services." The board recommended disapproval by the HOD out of concern that the wording wasn't specific to microchip databases for companion animals, which could jeopardize the National Animal Identification System for livestock.

Instead, Dr. David McCrystle, District X, drafted a version that inserts the words "companion animal" before "microchip registration databases" and introduced it as Resolution 3. The board recommended it for HOD approval. This resolution also eliminates a statement that is in the Resolution 2 background that microchip database information used for marketing can give an unfair advantage to a limited number of businesses. Because the AVMA is not involved with the business interests, Resolution 3 replaces that background sentence with one stating that using microchip database information for marketing may go beyond the expectation of privacy that an animal owner may have when providing personal information for registration.

To be considered, Resolution 3 would require a two-thirds majority vote of the HOD to waive the prior-notice provision, because it was submitted after the resolution deadline.  

Emergency responder coverage

The board approved the following new policy: 
Licensure, liability, and workers compensation coverage for veterinarians and veterinary technicians responding to declared emergencies out of state

(a) AVMA encourages interstate recognition of licenses issued to veterinarians and credentials issued to veterinary technicians officially responding to state-declared emergencies; and
(b) Affected states are encouraged to provide liability and workers compensation insurance for veterinarians and veterinary technicians who provide veterinary services during disasters.


Dr. John R. Brooks, District II, said, "We are creating a generic template so that people asked to move into emergency situations are reasonably protected. We are just saying we agree there should be a national model."

This AVMA policy will be provided to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws for reference as it completes the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act.

NCCUSL is a nonprofit, unincorporated association comprising uniform-law commissions from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The conference proposes uniform laws such as this act, which take effect in a state if the legislature adopts it.

AVMA staff have been providing technical advice to NCCUSL on incorporating veterinary professionals into this act. In July 2006, the conference approved the act's phase 1 provisions on interstate recognition of licenses, and in July 2007, it is considering the phase 2 provisions that provide workers' compensation and protections from civil liability.

Meeting at CDC headquarters  

The board authorized two AVMA entities to accept an invitation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a collaborative meeting at CDC headquarters in Atlanta this October. 

Dr. Lonnie J. King, who directs the CDC's National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases, invited the AVMA Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine and the Food Safety Advisory Committee to meet with CDC to further the AVMA's collaborative work with the CDC. Recent AVMA-CDC collaborations have included bilateral communication after Hurricane Katrina and cooperative efforts with the Wild Animal Importation Conference. While in Atlanta, the AVMA council and committee will also hold their fall meetings.  

Adverse event reporting system

The board approved AVMA participation in a meeting with the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine to discuss options for strengthening the drug adverse event reporting system. 

An expenditure of $1,600 was authorized for two members of the AVMA Subcommittee on Adverse Event Reporting—part of the Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents and the Clinical Practitioners Advisory Committee—to meet in Rockville, Md., with FDA-CVM representatives. The Animal Health Institute will also participate.

The AVMA-AHI working group will present several recommendations for the FDA's consideration. This initiative began three years ago when COBTA determined that the pharmacovigilance system appears to present unknown, unpredictable risks to drug sponsors and to result in undetected but preventable risks to animal patients.  

Food irradiation policy

​The board revised the "Food irradiation" policy to align with rules being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration, with which the AVMA Food Safety Advisory Committee concurs. The rules would revise labeling regulations for irradiated foods and allow labels to state "pasteurized" in lieu of "irradiated" if certain criteria are met. The new AVMA policy states: 
Food Irradiation
The AVMA supports irradiation of food to improve food safety and food quality. Irradiation must be applied at approved levels and following proper safeguards.

The AVMA supports requiring special labeling of irradiated foods only when irradiation causes a material change in the food (i.e., a change in the organoleptic, nutritional, or functional properties) that the consumer could not identify at the point of purchase in the absence of appropriate labeling.

The AVMA supports the use of the label term "pasteurization" in lieu of the term "irradiation" when the marketer has demonstrated to a regulatory agency that the pasteurization criteria of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act have been met.

With respect to animal derived foods, the animals must be slaughtered and processed under federal or state inspection which minimizes possible contamination, and irradiation must not be used as a substitute for unsanitary operations. Irradiated animal products and pasteurized foods must be protected from recontamination until consumed.

Bylaw amendments proposed  

Last year, the House of Delegates struck the AVMA Constitution and Bylaws in their entirety and replaced them with amended and restated AVMA Bylaws. Proposed amendments, therefore, now relate only to the AVMA Bylaws because there is no longer a constitution. 

This year, the Executive Board is sending three proposed Bylaws amendments to the HOD with recommendations for approval. The texts are printed beginning on page 23 and were posted online at least 30 days before the HOD votes, July 14, in accordance with the new Bylaws.

It was in April that the board recommended approval of proposed amendment #1. It calls for the HOD to hold a regular winter session in conjunction with the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference, in addition to the current regular annual session that is held in conjunction with the AVMA Annual Convention. This amendment resulted from HOD passage of a 2006 resolution submitted by seven state VMAs calling for a winter session. If the HOD approves the amendment, it will hold its first winter session in January 2008.

The board at its June meeting recommended approval of amendments #2 and #3. Amendment #2 would restore information on the seven current AVMA councils to the Bylaws. During preparation of the new Bylaws, the detailed information on each council had been removed and included in the HOD Manual. The board considered two possible versions of amendment #2, ultimately recommending the amendment that includes all relevant council information rather than a version that included only council responsibilities.

Amendment #3, which relates to the same Bylaws article and section as amendment #2, clarifies that the Executive Board does not develop or approve policies and procedures for the Council on Education, in contrast with the other six councils.  

Meeting of voting AVMA members

In compliance with the Bylaws, the board determined that the 2007 annual meeting of AVMA voting members will be held in conjunction with the Opening Session of the AVMA Annual Convention, at 7 a.m. in the Washington Convention Center.   

New position in Publications  

Approval was given to create another staff position for a veterinarian in the Publications Division. This position is designed to enhance the value and usefulness of JAVMA to AVMA members, especially those now entering the profession, by capitalizing on the Association's online presence to expand the offerings of the AVMA scientific journals.

Dr. Clark Fobian, District, VII, said, "I think this is a position that (will be) accomplishing exactly the needs and the mission we need to be, in this division."  

AVMF request for AVMA database

The board approved a request from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation for selected AVMA member record data so that the Foundation can better focus its fundraising efforts.  

Changes in AVMA awards 

The board approved revisions to the AVMA Practitioner Research Award to permit the nomination of veterinarians who contributed the major portion of their research and published the results while engaged in full-time private practice, even though they have changed their professional focus or are retired. The Council on Research, which selects the recipient for the award, recommended the revisions.

A revised concept for the AVMA Animal Welfare and AVMA Humane awards was approved, allowing for targeted outreach to help identify qualified nominees and providing clear criteria for nominators. A $500 honorarium was added for the veterinarian recipient of the Animal Welfare Award, just as the nonveterinarian Humane Award winner receives. Although the recommendation charged the AWC with oversight and selection responsibilities for both awards, the board amended that so that the AWC selects the Humane Award recipient but the board selects the Animal Welfare Award recipient.  

AAVMC Educational Symposium

The board approved $3,000 in funding to co-sponsor the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Educational Symposium titled "Assessing outcomes of clinical veterinary medicine," to be held in March 2008 in Washington, D.C. An enhanced understanding of outcomes assessment would help faculty and administrators better ensure the clinical competence of future veterinary graduates.  

Dialogue on curricula, accreditation, licensure

The board supported the AAVMC taking the lead in developing a process to bring together representatives from the AVMA, AAVMC, and American Association of Veterinary State Boards to begin a dialogue on issues related to veterinary curricula, accreditation, and licensure. This was recommended by the AVMA/AAVMC Joint Committee. 

The joint committee considers dialogue among the three associations as the necessary first step in facilitating stakeholder meetings to discuss these issues. Major stakeholders are the profession, schools—including faculty and students, regulatory boards, and the public.  

Resignation from AVMA entities  

The board approved changes to the policy governing resignations from AVMA councils, committees, and trusts, to clarify and strengthen it as recommended by the Governance Performance Review Committee. Now, in addition to nonperformance of responsibilities, the chair can request that a member resign because of malfeasance of duty or conflict of interest.  


As recommended by the AVMA Political Action Committee Policy Board, the Executive Board approved minor changes to a policy that states the AVMA should work with Congress to preserve the presence and function of political action committees, and to another that encourages veterinarians to participate in the political process.

Asked whether these policies are even needed, Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director of the Governmental Relations Division, said that now is a good time to have these, with all the lobbying reform that is in progress and with the critical need for veterinarians to participate in the political process.