AVMA endorses guidance for vets suspecting animal abuse

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The AVMA has endorsed a document created jointly by the AVMA Committee on the Human-Animal Bond and the American Humane Association for veterinarians who see cases of suspected animal abuse and neglect in practice.

"Practical Guidance for the Effective Response by Veterinarians to Suspected Animal Cruelty, Abuse and Neglect" is designed to be a practical, user-friendly manual that acknowledges the concerns and difficulties cases of neglect and abuse present.

It is also intended to aid veterinarians in establishing individual, practice-specific policies and procedures that best serve the needs of the animal, the client, the veterinarian, and the community.

While avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach, the document encourages practical application of the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics of the AVMA and other AVMA policies that strive to reduce the occurrence of abuse and neglect and encourage reporting of animal abuse or neglect as defined by federal or state laws or local ordinances.

The guidance has been created to harmonize with AVMA policies, veterinary practice acts, and the widely varying legal requirements of each state. It encourages veterinarians to develop protocols for handling suspected abuse and neglect cases in a manner that is appropriate for their practice area and location.

Topics covered include documentation, decision making, model policies, client questionnaires, legal reporting requirements, liability and confidentiality, and sources of training and resources.

The document, which the Executive Board does not offer as legal advice, will be distributed by the AVMA, AHA, and The National Linkage Project.

International declaration endorsed

Additionally, the Executive Board endorsed the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations' "Tokyo Declaration on Universal, Natural, and Basic Human Right to Benefit from the Presence of Animals."

The AVMA Committee on the Human-Animal Bond recommended that the AVMA support the declaration, which recognizes the benefits people in a range of settings can receive from contact with animals as companions, as part of therapeutic activities, or in educational settings.

Drs. de Jong and Kornegay
One of the newest board members, District I representative John de Jong, listens in with President Larry M. Kornegay.

Careful consideration was given to the potential for negative consequences of introducing animals into households or institutions, including situations that might lead to compromised animal welfare, exposure to zoonotic disease, or human injury, the committee noted in the recommendation background. Committee members believed, however, that the declaration made appropriate and sufficient reference to the importance of careful selection, training, and care of companion, therapy, and educational animals.

The declaration also acknowledges that the wishes of people not desiring contact with animals must be respected.