Convention speaker discusses new Humane Society VMA

Published on September 01, 2008
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Andrew N. Rowan, PhD
Andrew N. Rowan, PhD
The new Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association will focus on the protection of animal health and the relief of animal suffering—the first two subjects of the Veterinarian's Oath—said Andrew N. Rowan, PhD, executive vice president for operations at the Humane Society of the United States.  

The HSVMA resulted from a recent merger between the HSUS and the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights. Dr. Rowan spoke at the AVMA Annual Convention during the Ethics track on "The Humane Society VMA: Providing a Home for Veterinary Professionals Eager To Associate Themselves with Progressive Leadership on Animal Issues."

Dr. Rowan described the HSVMA's brief history and future programs before opening the floor to discussion.

"The HSUS has for years wanted to work with the veterinary community—but really didn't know precisely how and wasn't very successful at it," Dr. Rowan said. "The idea was that if we couldn't actually find ourselves working well with organized veterinary medicine, maybe we should try and establish our own community of veterinarians who would work with us."

Dr. Rowan said veterinary medical and animal protection groups started organizing at about the same time and place in the United States—during the mid-1800s in New York—yet the communities were never on the same wavelength.

"It's the tyranny of small differences," he said. "At the end of the day, 90 percent of what we do is common."

Dr. Rowan said the HSVMA will build on existing HSUS and AVAR projects. Policy work will promote animal welfare in legislation, education, and enforcement. Field services include the HSUS Remote Area Veterinary Services, emergency services, and spay-neuter programs.

The HSVMA also plans to develop student chapters and offer member benefits, including insurance, but those items are works in progress. Dr. Rowan said the HSVMA does not intend for membership in the new group to preclude membership in other veterinary organizations.

Dr. Rowan allowed plenty of time for questions and answers after his remarks.

Some audience members disliked the idea of the HSVMA focusing on animal health and suffering but not the other three subjects of the Veterinarian's Oath—conservation of animal resources, promotion of public health, and advancement of medical knowledge. Dr. Rowan responded that many veterinary groups have a focus, such as a particular species or discipline.

Other audience members expressed frustration with the slow pace of AVMA policy development in the area of animal welfare. In the audience was Dr. Gail C. Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division, who emphasized that policy development takes time if the policy and implementing actions are going to be comprehensive and effective—and are not going to result in unintended consequences.