Policy changes relate to pets, livestock

Published on December 15, 2011
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The AVMA Executive Board has made some noteworthy policy changes relating to companion animals and production animals.

During its Nov. 10-12 meeting, the board adopted Guidelines for Responsible Pet Ownership and rescinded consent and waiver forms for treatment of companion animals. Relevant more to production animals, the board adopted a new policy calling for a national list of reportable animal diseases.

During an Oct. 27 conference call, the board revised a policy on certificates of veterinary inspection to support a uniform interstate certificate for livestock and companion animals. 

Responsible pet ownership

At its Nov. 10-12 meeting, the AVMA Executive Board approved the following new guidelines on responsible pet ownership.

Woman holding a dog

Guidelines for Responsible Pet Ownership

Owning a pet is a privilege and should result in a mutually beneficial relationship. However, the benefits of pet ownership come with obligations. Responsible pet ownership includes:

  • Committing to the relationship for the life of the pet(s).
  • Avoiding impulsive decisions about obtaining pet(s), and carefully selecting pet(s) suited to your home and lifestyle.
  • Recognizing that ownership of pet(s) requires an investment of time and money.
  • Keeping only the type and number of pets for which an appropriate and safe environment can be provided, including adequate and appropriate food, water, shelter, health care and companionship.
  • Ensuring pets are properly identified (i.e., tags, microchips, or tattoos) and that registration information in associated databases is kept up-to-date.
  • Adherence to local ordinances, including licensing and leash requirements.
  • Controlling pet(s)' reproduction through managed breeding, containment, or spay/neuter, thereby helping to address animal control and overpopulation problems.
  • Establishing and maintaining a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
  • Providing preventive (e.g., vaccinations, parasite control) and therapeutic health care for the life of pet(s) in consultation with, and as recommended by, its veterinarian.
  • Socialization and appropriate training for pet(s), which facilitates their well-being and the well-being of other animals and people.
  • Preventing pet(s) from negatively impacting other people, animals and the environment, including proper waste disposal, noise control, and not allowing pet(s) to stray or become feral.
  • Providing exercise and mental stimulation appropriate to the pet(s)' age, breed, and health status.
  • Advance preparation to ensure the pet(s)' well-being in the case of an emergency or disaster, including assembling an evacuation kit.
  • Making alternative arrangements if caring for the pet is no longer possible.
  • Recognizing declines in the pet(s)' quality of life and making decisions in consultation with a veterinarian regarding appropriate end-of-life care (e.g., palliative care, hospice, euthanasia).

Companion animals
In the past, the AVMA has endorsed the Golden Rules of Pet Ownership from the California VMA. Members of the AVMA Committee on the Human-Animal Bond thought it was time to develop a more detailed set of guidelines.

On recommendation of the committee, the board approved the new Guidelines for Responsible Pet Ownership (see sidebar), superseding endorsement of the Golden Rules of Pet Ownership.

The Guidelines for Responsible Pet Ownership are intended to serve as a core AVMA policy regarding the relationship between humans and companion animals. Dr. René A. Carlson, AVMA president, said she likes the guidelines because they set a bar for responsible pet ownership.

On recommendation of the AVMA Council on Veterinary Service, the board rescinded the Model Standard Consent Form and Waiver of Treatment(s) or Test(s) Form.

The council obtained input on the forms from the AVMA PLIT, a trust that provides professional liability insurance for veterinarians. On reviewing the revisions from the PLIT, council members concluded that a greater variety of forms would be necessary to cover the wide range of possible veterinary procedures.

Dr. Patricia L. Wohlferth-Bethke, staff consultant to the council, said members of the council will work to create a set of template forms for various purposes.

Production animals
On recommendation of the AVMA Animal Agriculture Liaison Committee, the board approved a new policy supporting development of a national list of reportable animal diseases.

State and federal regulations vary in their requirements for reporting various animal diseases, and the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is developing a standardized national list of reportable animal diseases as part of the National Animal Health Reporting System.

A standardized list of reportable diseases would create uniformity across states and satisfy international requirements for reporting disease outbreaks to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

The board approved revising the AVMA policy on certificates of veterinary inspection on recommendation of the Council on Veterinary Service with the support of the AVMA Animal Agriculture Liaison Committee.

The policy now includes the following statement: "The AVMA supports the implementation of a uniform interstate livestock and companion animal Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection."

The intent of the addition is to encourage APHIS to consider addressing the idea of a uniform interstate certificate during development of the new national disease traceability program for livestock.

Many AVMA policies,including the new Guidelines for Responsible Pet Ownership, are available here.