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March 01, 2020

HOD adopts policies on cribbing, microchipping animals

Published on February 12, 2020

The AVMA House of Delegates on Jan. 11 overwhelmingly voted to adopt a new policy on humanely managing horse cribbing and a revised policy concerning microchip identification of animals.

Additionally, delegates approved recommendations relating to two topics discussed during the Veterinary Information Forum held the previous day (see story).

The first recommendation concerns potential liability issues related to student externs and practice volunteers. The House voted for a recommendation that the AVMA Board of Directors consider developing a toolkit, including potential forms, and an awareness campaign to protect practitioners, students, and other members of the veterinary health care team.

The second recommendation relates to online veterinary care and telehealth. Delegates voted for a recommendation that the AVMA continue developing guidelines for this quickly emerging area and that AVMA members contact telehealthatavma [dot] org with further questions about the issue.

The HOD agenda also included two additional policy proposals, one dealing with cat declawing (see story) and the other on using technology in veterinary medicine.

Delegates adopted a new policy on technology that combines related policies into a single statement, giving the AVMA latitude to advocate for the use of technology in veterinary medicine.

Alabama Delegate Libby Todd
Alabama Delegate Libby Todd, chair of a reference committee that discussed the proposed AVMA policy on cribbing in horses prior to the House of Delegates vote, explains the committee’s support for adopting the policy.

Cribbing

Cribbing is a common equine stereotypy during which a horse grasps a solid object, such as a stall door or fence rail, with its incisor teeth. In 2019, the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee learned that injurious devices are being used to curb the behavior, the committee explained in the policy backgrounder.

Metal hog rings are one such device cited by the AWC. Placed through the incisors and around the teeth of a horses, the hog ring causes gingival damage, periodontal disease, and abrasive wear to the teeth.

“Unfortunately, this practice is not only prevalent in the lay industry but is also being performed by some veterinarians,” the AWC stated.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners adopted a similar policy against the use of hog rings placed around the maxillary incisors to prevent cribbing in horses.

The policy, approved unanimously by the HOD, reads as follows:

Management of Cribbing in Horses
Cribbing (also known as crib biting or windsucking) is one of many repetitive behaviors known as stereotypies, which are sometimes demonstrated by horses. A variety of devices have been utilized to prevent horses from cribbing, including hog rings. The AVMA condemns the use of hog rings or other devices placed around the teeth to prevent cribbing in horses. These devices are detrimental to the welfare and health of the horse due to the potential to cause persistent pain, damage to the gingiva, periodontal disease and abrasive wear to adjacent teeth. The AVMA encourages research to understand and address the underlying causes of cribbing.

Prior to the vote, when the policy’s adoption seemed assured, Dr. Lauren Atkins, Massachusetts delegate, addressed her colleagues. “I’d like to say how proud I am of this organization. This is what it looks like to be a leader in animal welfare,” Dr. Atkins said.

Microchips

The revised AVMA policy on microchips is the work of the Council on Veterinary Service, State Advocacy Committee, and Animal Welfare Committee, which realized the previous AVMA policy had become cumbersome.

As the entities explained in the policy background, there are valid reasons to scan new patients and regularly scan existing patients for implanted microchips. However, dictating in the policy the precise situations, frequency, or procedure for such scanning may impinge on or conflict with state laws regarding property ownership.

For example, if a veterinarian has already established a veterinarian-client-patient relationship with a new client, then discovers that the client’s animal has a microchip of which the owner was unaware, the requirements and ability of the veterinarian to attempt to notify anyone about this situation are likely limited owing to the existing VCPR.

In light of these real-world challenges, the AVMA entities proposed a scaled-down version of the current policy. Delegates voted in favor of the revised statement, which reads as follows:

Microchips: Identification of Companion Animals and Equids
The AVMA endorses the implantation of electronic identification in companion animals and equids and supports standardization in materials, procedures, equipment, and registries. Veterinary healthcare teams are thereby encouraged to recommend the implantation of electronic identification of animals to their clients.

The objectives of an effective system of electronic identification of animals are to:

Microchips: Identification of Companion Animals and Equids
The AVMA endorses the implantation of electronic identification in companion animals and equids and supports standardization in materials, procedures, equipment, and registries. Veterinary health care teams are thereby encouraged to recommend the implantation of electronic identification of animals to their clients.

The objectives of an effective system of electronic identification of animals are to:

  1. Accurately identify animals to aid in reuniting animals with their owners.
  2. Accurately identify animals for regulatory purposes.

    a. Travel (international and domestic).

    b. Certificates of Inspection.

    c. Identification of specific animals such as breeding animals, competition animals, animals where legislation mandates permanent identification

  3. Accurately identify animals prior to providing medical or surgical treatment or euthanasia.

The AVMA supports ISO (International Organization for Standardization) compliant RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology that adheres to and is based on ISO 11784/11785 standards.