Exotic Companion Mammal specialty receives recognition

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Exotic Companion Mammal veterinarian holding a rabbitThe new Exotic Companion Mammal specialty practice area received provisional recognition from the AVMA, following review by the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties and approval in April by the AVMA Executive Board. The new specialty will focus on ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, rodents, and other small exotic mammals that people keep as pets. It will fall under the auspices of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, which offers board certification in a number of other specialty practice areas.

Dr. Larry G. Dee, ABVP representative to the ABVS, said during the AVMA Executive Board's April meeting that a specific body of knowledge exists to support creating a specialty in exotic companion mammals. A number of veterinarians practice in the area, though most residencies at veterinary colleges currently combine the study of exotic veterinary medicine with the study of avian medicine. Dr. Dee concluded that the new specialty will help advance medicine for exotic companion mammals.

According to the 2007 edition of the AVMA's U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, Americans own about 6.2 million pet rabbits—an increase of 1.4 million in five years. Americans also own 1.2 million hamsters, 1.1 million ferrets, and 1 million guinea pigs along with hundreds of thousands of gerbils and other rodents.

The Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians petitioned the ABVP in 2004 to begin the process toward recognition of the new specialty in exotic companion mammals. The ABVP submitted a petition for recognition of the specialty to the ABVS in late 2006.

During a year of public comment that concluded Nov. 30, 2007, the ABVS received three comments—all supporting the new specialty.

The ABVS is an AVMA entity that recognizes veterinary specialties as well as specialty organizations. Dr. Beth Sabin, an assistant director of the AVMA Education and Research Division, noted that some specialty organizations, such as the ABVP and the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, offer board certification in numerous specialties—while other specialty organizations, such as the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, offer one specialty certificate.

The ABVS consists of one voting representative from each recognized specialty organization plus liaisons from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and AVMA Council on Education. Recommendations for recognition of specialties or specialty organizations go from the ABVS to the COE and then to the AVMA Executive Board. Information about the ABVS is available here.

To attain full recognition, the Exotic Companion Mammal specialty must submit a second petition for review between year four and year 10 of provisional recognition.

In another action relevant to the ABVS, the AVMA Executive Board approved forwarding a letter to the American Association of Veterinary State Boards suggesting that state boards should examine rules and regulations to ensure that the public understands "specialist" to mean a veterinarian who has received board certification.

The AVMA Executive Board also approved funding to host a follow-up workshop during the 2009 ABVS meeting to continue discussions regarding the impact of potential shortages of academic veterinary specialists.

Coverage of the Executive Board's legislative visit and agenda actions will continue in the June 1 issue.