Welfare policies revised, partnership formed

AVMA joins alliance to curb dog and cat overpopulaion
Published on January 01, 2009
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

The AVMA has updated its position statements addressing animal-based safety testing; the transport, sale yard practices, and humane slaughter of livestock; and the removal of antlers (velveting).

In addition, the Association has become an organizational partner of the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs in its mission to bring about a nonsurgical means of humanely sterilizing cats and dogs so that overpopulation may be addressed in areas and populations underserved by surgical approaches.

These actions were the outcome of recommendations made by the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee to the Executive Board. 

The AVMA's revised Policy on Safety Testing states:

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 activities that are designed to evaluate the scientific validity of new alternative test methods. However, the AVMA supports the protection of human and animal health and will continue to oppose activities that seek to eliminate animal-based safety assessments that are not based on sound scientific principles.

The policy was adopted in November 1991 and revised in 2002. According to the committee, revisions were needed to address the existence of multiple governmental agencies and organizations concerned with development and validation of alternative methods and to avoid endorsement of any particular effort.

The committee thought it prudent that the policy extend the AVMA's support of valid safety testing to that needed to protect both animal and human health, and to generalize the Association's opposition to all efforts to eliminate scientifically valid animal-based safety assessments, not simply those taking place in the legislative arena.

A portion of the AVMA Policy on Transport, Sale Yard Practices, and Humane Slaughter of Livestock was revised to read:

Safe and adequate vehicles should be used for transporting animals. Time limits during transit as specified by state and federal regulations must be observed.

The revision accommodates the decision by the Agriculture Department that the 28-Hour Law applies to transport of livestock by truck. The 28-Hour Law states that animals being transported interstate may not be confined for more than 28 consecutive hours without unloading the animals for feeding, water, and rest.

In 1994, the language of the law was changed to include, in addition to rail transport, transportation by express or common carriers involving confinement in a "vehicle or vessel." In 2006, the USDA determined that "vehicle" would apply to trucks in addition to other forms of common conveyance.

Animal Welfare Committee members believe the remainder of the statement is still appropriate and recommended no additional revisions.

The board also approved revisions to the Policy on Removal of Antlers (Velveting). The updated policy reads:

The AVMA recommends that if amputation of the growing, living antler of a member of the family Cervidae (e.g., deer, moose, elk, caribou) is to be performed, it must be conducted humanely, and within the bounds of a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship. The procedure must minimize stress and pain to the animal with the use of humane handling and analgesia, while protecting the animal against excessive blood loss, risk of infection, or fly strike

Velvet refers to the entire antler of a range of cervid species, including deer and elk. Most velvet antler is exported to Asian markets, particularly Korea. It is also sold in the United States as a complementary medicine or dietary supplement.

During their deliberations, committee members considered information from the peer-reviewed literature. (An AVMA backgrounder on the topic is available on the AVMA Web site.)

Velvet antler is innervated and vascularized tissue, and its removal without analgesia causes pain. Velvet removal and associated handling and restraint also cause physiological and psychological stress.

Since the benefits of consuming velvet antler are still in question, the AWC believes that in adopting related policy, the AVMA must be careful not to lend legitimacy to undocumented therapeutic effects of the product. The statement was revised to reflect the committee's thinking, and to ensure that protecting the welfare of the animal during the process of harvesting velvet is not an option, but a requirement.

Another committee recommendation was for the AVMA to become an organizational partner with the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs.

The mission of the ACC&D is to expedite the successful introduction of methods to nonsurgically sterilize cats and dogs and to support the distribution and promotion of these products to humanely control cat and dog populations worldwide.

Organizational partners are asked to write a letter of support to help the ACC&D demonstrate support and demand for nonsurgical sterilization products and to provide a logo to be included on the Organizational Partner Program page of the ACC&D Website. There is no cost to be an organizational partner.

AWC members determined that support of the ACC&D is consistent with language in existing AVMA policy on Dog and Cat Population Control. In 2007, the Executive Board approved the AVMA providing a letter of support for the ACC&D's efforts.

Committee members also believe that work on nonsurgical sterilants for cats and dogs may lead to advances that may be applicable to needed methods of population control for other species, including horses and deer.