Raw pet food diets, pet population management policies headed to HOD

Other topics include proposed midlevel practitioner position, in-person veterinarian-client-patient relationship, and more during the Veterinary Information Forum

Noncommercial transportation of pets, management of dog and cat populations, and raw pet food diets are among the issues to be considered by the AVMA House of Delegates (HOD) during its regular winter session, being held January 5-6, 2024, in Chicago in conjunction with the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference (VLC). 

Grey short-hair tabby cat
The AVMA House of Delegates will consider the revised policy “Dog and Cat Population Management” among other policy changes during its regular winter session this January.

In all, six resolutions that would amend AVMA policies have been referred to the HOD by the AVMA Board of Directors (BOD). The remaining proposals deal with mitigating hazards in the veterinary workplace, safety testing, and animal loss support services. The BOD and House Advisory Committee (HAC) are recommending delegates approve each of the proposals, pending waiver of the requirement for 60 days notice.

New, revised policies being considered

The proposed policy changes are as follows:

  • A new policy on “Mitigating Hazards in the Veterinary Workplace,” developed by the AVMA Council on Veterinary Service, would supersede the policies “Guidelines for Addressing Hazards in the Workplace” and “Veterinary Facility Occupational Risks for Pregnant Workers.”

    The key to a safe working environment is to prevent workplace accidents, injuries, and illnesses. The proposed policy notes the requirement by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) that all businesses, including veterinary practices, have a safety program in place to protect the health and safety of workers. The safety program must include a Hazardous Communication Plan (HAZCOM), and address recordkeeping, equipment safety, and required training. The policy also recognizes that many states have additional standards beyond what is required by OSHA.

  • A revised policy on “Safe Non-Commercial Transport of Pets in Motor Vehicles,” developed by the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee (AWC), that recognizes the scarcity of scientific data available to determine the safety of individual animal transport products. Language was also added to stress the animal health, welfare, and safety risks of transporting pets without appropriate restraint, whether that is in the interior or cargo area of vehicles.
  • A revised policy on “Dog and Cat Population Management” from the AWC highlights how pet population management is an ongoing process that includes interventions for owned pets, which contribute to free-roaming and stray populations. The AWC says such a holistic approach aligns with the most recent updates to the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) Terrestrial Code Chapter 7.7 on Dog Population Management.

    Additional content was added describing effective dog and cat population management interventions, including connecting owners to resources within their communities and encouraging new owners to establish a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) for their pet.

  • Revisions to the policy on “Safety Testing” proposed by the AWC that emphasize the “3Rs” of animal research—reduce or avoid pain and distress, reduce the number of animals used, and replace animals with non-animal methods when scientifically appropriate—and supports continued efforts to develop, validate, and approve alternative testing methods. The proposed updates further specify what is needed in studies where animals are used, and more clearly state who is involved in the ethical review of such animal use.
  • An updated policy on “Raw or Undercooked Animal-Source Protein in Cat and Dog Diets,” recommended by the AVMA Food Safety Advisory Committee (FSAC), states that in addition to cooking and pasteurization, alternative methods that reduce or eliminate the risk of illness due to pathogenic contaminants may be considered. The policy also advises that apparently healthy dogs and cats can develop subclinical infections from pathogenic organisms contained within raw or undercooked animal-sourced protein and pose a risk to other animals and people, especially young, elderly, pregnant and immunocompromised individuals.
  • A new policy on “Animal Loss Support Services” that would replace the current AVMA policy “Guidelines for Pet Loss Support Services” was developed by the AVMA Steering Committee on Human-Animal Interactions (SCHAI). As explained in the resolution’s background information, the content of the current policy on best practices for pet loss helplines was deemed no longer relevant because these programs are now regularly offered by national organizations, and the internet has proved to be an appropriate platform for some of these services.

    However, the SCHAI agreed that AVMA’s backing of support services for people anticipating or dealing with the loss of animals remains critical. Therefore, rather than rescinding the policy, the SCHAI is recommending revisions that remove content regarding telephone helplines and, instead, focus more directly on resources for addressing animal loss. Additionally, because animal loss affects people across all sectors of veterinary medicine and includes producers, research technicians, and zookeepers, as well as pet owners, SCHAI thought it appropriate to expand the policy’s scope from “pet” to “animal.”

Further information about the six resolutions is available online.

Issues in veterinary medicine

The HOD agenda also includes the Veterinary Information Forum (VIF), which will once again take place during the HOD’s regular winter session but in a slightly different format.

Several critical issues have the potential to significantly impact the delivery of care to veterinary patients, the structure of the profession, and veterinary medicine as a whole. These include calls to create a midlevel position and relax the VCPR with related legislative, regulatory, and policy efforts underway in multiple states.

During the VIF, delegates will receive detailed information about the veterinary workforce, proposed mid-level position, and the VCPR to facilitate effective conversations on these topics. There will also be opportunity for open discussion. Following the VIF, as usual, there will be time for open discussion to interact on topics individual HOD members would like to address, said Dr. Libby Todd, HAC chair, in an email to delegates.

During reference committee meetings, delegates will talk about the resolutions submitted to the House. Also up for discussion will be a draft of an update to the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics (PVME), and thoughts will be gathered about any needed adjustments to the current edition of the Model Veterinary Practice Act (MVPA). The Council on Veterinary Service (COVS) is currently working on both documents.

While the resolutions will be handled as official AVMA business, comments and ideas on the PVME, MVPA, and workforce topics resulting from informal discussion will be captured and utilized as appropriate, Dr. Todd said.

Finally, the HOD will hear from two members of its House Advisory Panel, who will share insights into key initiatives currently being worked on by their agencies.


The AVMA journals have put together a virtual collection of articles on veterinary workforce-related topics, including practice efficiency, starting salaries, burnout, and educational debt.