Delegates to vote on policies on humane transport, veterinary ethics

Professional liability, the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act, and use of technology will be a focus during Veterinary Information Forum

The AVMA House of Delegates (HOD) will vote on accepting updated versions of policies on the humane transport of livestock and the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics (PVME) when the HOD holds its regular annual session June 20-21 in Austin, Texas.

Incoming AVMA President Sandra Faeh will preside over the two-day HOD meeting, held concurrently with AVMA Convention 2024. During this time will also be the elections of Dr. Michael Bailey as the 2024-25 AVMA president-elect and Dr. Gary Marshall as the 2024-26 AVMA vice president, as well as officer reports and candidate introductions for 2025-26 AVMA president-elect.

Turkeys in cages on a truck
The proposed AVMA policy on “Transport of Animals” was developed in collaboration with experienced veterinarians, animal ethologists, animal welfare scientists, and species-specific transport experts.

The HOD’s Veterinary Information Forum topic of discussion is professional liability. Participants are encouraged to consider how this area is related to the AVMA’s Model Veterinary Practice Act (MVPA) as well as the adoption of new technologies, such as telehealth, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and virtual reality in education.

Humane transport

The AVMA Board of Directors (BOD) introduced a resolution to supersede the current AVMA policy on “Transport, Sale Yard Practices, and Humane Slaughter of Hoofstock and Poultry” with the following “Transport of Animals” policy:

“The AVMA supports the humane transport of animals. It is recommended that best practices be evidence-based and address the following at a minimum:

  • Animals must be evaluated and determined to be fit for transportation.
  • Handling methods, equipment, facilities, and transport vehicles must provide for the safety of animals and personnel, minimize stress and injury, and limit the transmission of disease.
  • The type of transport, transit time, age, and species of the animals being transported, climatic concerns, and the goal of optimizing animal welfare should be considered together to determine routes, rest stops, and whether the animals should be unloaded, fed, and watered.

We support guidance that has been developed in collaboration with experienced veterinarians, animal ethologists, animal welfare scientists, and species-specific transport experts. The AVMA also supports research focused on improving transport practices that consider the physical and affective states of animals.”

The updated policy was suggested by the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) and the BOD's resolution was endorsed by the AVMA House Advisory Committee (HAC). According to the resolution's background, the House asked that the committee review all AVMA policies regarding the transportation of animals, consider creating an overarching policy, and develop resource documents to deliver species- and situation-specific information.

An AWC subcommittee on this issue reviewed the policy and the direction provided by the HOD and brought a draft policy to the AWC meeting this March, the background continued. The draft was refined during the meeting, creating a broad policy on animal transportation that is applicable to all species.

Ethical principles

The Board has also submitted to the HOD a resolution that would revise the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics.

The proposed document includes a new Code of Conduct section and three overarching “principles” that the Code of Conduct is intended to support, according to the resolution background. “Much of the commentary from the existing PVME has been retained in this revision; the document has simply been restructured to improve clarity and usability,” it states.

A draft version of the PVME was informally reviewed by the HOD during its winter session in January and a 60-day comment period for AVMA members was opened. The AVMA received 90 comments in that time.

The CoVS and its Expanded Working Group (EWG) have met many times since review of the PVME began in the fall of 2022. The EWG had representation from the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Association of Swine Veterinarians, American Association of Veterinary State Boards, AVMA Professional Liability Insurance Trust (PLIT), AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities, the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, and Veterinary Medical Association Executives.

The HAC recommended delegates adopt the resolution.

Honoring military veterinarians

The Michigan VMA (MVMA) has submitted a resolution honoring and commending active and reserve military veterinarians of the uniformed services of the U.S. A two-thirds vote by the HOD waiving the 60-day prior notice rule and a recommendation from the HAC are necessary before the House can consider the proposal.

Part of the resolution reads: “The military veterinarians serve a vital role in building and maintaining animal care and human health in underdeveloped and underserved countries. They also provide care for Military Working Dogs, working animals of the Department of Homeland Security organizations and pets owned by service members. Their sacrifice for the world community and the citizens of the United States is beyond reproach and a shining example of how these military members serve their country.”

The last time the HOD passed a resolution honoring military veterinarians was in 2004, according to the resolution background. This latest proposal, passed unanimously by the MVMA’s board of directors and executive committee, also recognizes the sacrifices of military families. “We feel that they deserve recognition also because they are an integral part of the daily lives of all Military Veterinarians. They are truly serving our country at the same time as their loved one,” the background states.

Dr. Jill Lynn, Michigan’s delegate, is a small animal veterinarian from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and a major in the Army Reserve. She is currently deployed to Djibouti, Africa, the background continues, and has led missions to multiple African countries. She has also in the past been deployed to Iraq.

Veterinary Information Forum

Professional liability concerns can weigh on the minds of veterinarians, which is why AVMA leadership has chosen it as the topic of the HOD’s Veterinary Information Forum. Participants are encouraged to share their questions or thoughts relative to professional liability insurance, including the program sponsored by the AVMA PLIT or legal liability in the course of professional veterinary practice.

On a related topic, a variety of new technologies have lead to substantial advancements in the diagnostics and services veterinarians can provide for patients, clients, and the public. With that in mind, AVMA leadership hopes forum participants will share their questions and thoughts around the adoption of such technologies, including any related professional liability concerns. 

The Model Veterinary Practice Act is also undergoing review by the CoVS and its EWG. The AVMA is hoping its members will use the VIF as an opportunity to identify and share any gaps or needs they have noted in the model act. Examples of some questions for which feedback has been requested include:

  • What are the pros and cons of identifying specific duties that veterinary technicians, veterinary technologists, and veterinary technician specialists can perform with the appropriate level of supervision based on their education or certification?
  • The current MVPA suggests that for a veterinarian or veterinary technician to be eligible to serve on the Board of Veterinary Medicine that they “shall have been a resident of the State for at least five years immediately preceding appointment.” With today’s mobile society, is this still reasonable?
  • License portability is an ongoing concern. For a veterinarian or veterinary technician to be eligible for “licensure by endorsement,” meaning they have an active license in at least one other state and therefore should qualify for a streamlined licensing process in a new state, should there be a minimum required time that the individual has been practicing in the state in which they currently hold a license?

Concerning technology, the AVMA has created a Task Force on Emerging Technologies and Innovation that is charged with identifying needs and strategies to support AVMA members in the practical and responsible use of clinical- and business-augmenting technologies. To ensure the task force will focus on those technologies of most interest, the AVMA is seeking feedback from VIF participants on the following questions:

  • What technologies are you currently using in your practice?
  • Are there technologies you would like to use, but are not currently using? What has been your biggest challenge or concern in adopting new technologies?
  • What resources could AVMA provide to assist you in adopting those technologies that make sense for your practice?