AVMA deliberates on breed standards, devocalization

House of Delegates also to consider foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank, globalization, student debt, license portability
Published on June 13, 2018

A resolution submitted to the House of Delegates calls for the AVMA to help develop healthier breed standards for purebred dogs and cats; another resolution would have the AVMA take a stronger stance against canine devocalization.

Small leashed dog on a walk with caretaker The AVMA HOD at its regular annual session July 12-13 in Denver will consider these resolutions and a resolution to adopt a policy supporting establishment of a U.S.-specific vaccine bank for foot-and-mouth disease.

During the House's Veterinary Information Forum, the discussion will focus on the role of the AVMA in a global society, a holistic approach to student debt, and license portability for temporary relief and disaster response.

Breed standards

Eight state VMAs submitted a resolution that calls for the AVMA Board of Directors to consider AVMA collaboration with breed associations and stakeholders such as the American Kennel Club and the Cat Fanciers' Association "to develop recommendations on healthy breed standards, with the goal of eliminating congenital problems associated with purebred dogs and cats."

The statement about the resolution notes that the House of Delegates recently adopted the policy "Inherited Disorders in Responsible Breeding of Companion Animals." The policy states, in part, that "the AVMA supports research in genetic and inherited disorders to better educate the profession and breeders on identifying and minimizing inherited disorders in companion animal breeding programs."

According to the statement about the resolution: "It is important that the veterinary profession be proactive in this area because we are caught in the middle. Some say that by doing corrective surgeries and working with breeders, we are enabling the continuation of these disorders. On the other hand, we are obliged by our oath to help our patients be comfortable and live healthy lives."

The statement about the resolution concludes, "The problem of inherited disorders in purebred dogs and cats will continue until the profession, AKC, CFA, and breed associations address animal health and welfare issues by working together to change breed standards."


The AVMA Board of Directors submitted a resolution to revise the policy "Canine Devocalization." According to the statement about the resolution, "This policy revision redirects the emphasis of the policy from the rare and marginal conditions under which devocalization may be ethically justified, to the need for AVMA to oppose convenience devocalization as a nontherapeutic procedure that negatively impacts the welfare of the dog."

The proposed policy would read as follows: "The American Veterinary Medical Association is opposed to the nontherapeutic devocalization of dogs because of the surgery's negative impacts on animal welfare. Barking is a natural behavior and method of communication for dogs, and devocalization deprives the dog from performing this natural behavior. In addition, significant risks and complications are associated with the surgery. Devocalization is also frequently ineffective in preventing inappropriate or excessive barking. Instead, veterinary acceptable methods of modifying this behavior should be employed. The AVMA considers therapeutic laryngeal surgery, performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians, to be appropriate veterinary care."

FMD, allied groups

The AVMA Board of Directors submitted a resolution to adopt the policy "Foot and Mouth Disease." According to the statement about the resolution, "There has been a renewed interest in the development of vaccination policies to address an outbreak of FMD."

The interest has resulted in a recommendation from the United States Animal Health Association that the U.S. government budget for a vaccine bank. The recommendation has support from the livestock industry and National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials. The United States' stake in the existing North American FMD Vaccine Bank is adequate to respond only to a localized FMD outbreak.

The proposed AVMA policy on FMD would cover vaccination, including the U.S. vaccine bank, as well as laboratory testing, preparedness activities, and messaging.

The House of Delegates also will consider a proposed amendment to the AVMA Bylaws submitted by the American Association of Bovine Practitioners and American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners. The amendment would allow for constituent allied veterinary organizations with historical representation in the House but small memberships to retain representation.

Veterinary Information Forum

The topics of the Veterinary Information Forum will be as follows:

  • Globalization: We live in a global society—what role should the AVMA play internationally?
  • Student debt: Idea exchange on a holistic approach to student debt. What hasn't been tried?
  • License portability: Discuss the need and possible avenues for veterinarians to move across jurisdictions for temporary relief, such as in shortage situations and unusual circumstances, and for disaster response.

Proposals going to the House of Delegates are available at www.avma.org/about/governance, and comments on the VIF topics are invited at the May 16 AVMA@Work blog, https://atwork.avma.org/. Members of the AVMA can find contact information for delegates by visiting www.avma.org/members and clicking on "My AVMA Leaders."

Related JAVMA content:

AVMA passes policy on responsible pet breeding (March 1, 2017)

Devocalization as a final alternative (March 1, 2013)​​​