AAHA takes stand on animal welfare
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has some choice words to contribute to the evolving animal welfare dialogue.
Responding to its membership, the association's recently developed taskforce on animal welfare and ethics has written, rewritten and adopted five animal welfare position statements pertaining to animal abuse, convenience euthanasia, declawing, devocalization and ear cropping/tail docking. AAHA's board of directors approved the statements in mid-October.
Dr. Merry Crimi, taskforce chair and private practitioner, says AAHA received a "very powerful response" from individuals who were "very passionate" about the issues, which not surprisingly, are the pinnacle of many discussions within the profession at-large.
Statement highlightsIn determining AAHA's stance on the issues, the taskforce collected statements worldwide from Australia's veterinary associations, the World Veterinary Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and AAHA's previous statements. Three of AAHA's statements are revisions: ear crop/tail docking, animal abuse and euthanasia; declawing is an original statement.
(To read the entire statements, visit DVM Newsmagazine's Web site at www.dvmnewsmagazine.com.)
Canine devocalizationWhile four of the five statements are exclusive to AAHA, the canine devocalization statement reads like the version from the AVMA.
That's intentional, says Crimi, who adds AAHA adopted AVMA's statement because "what we had to say was very simple and AVMA had already said it very simply."
The statement reads "Canine devocalization should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians as a final alternative after behavioral modification efforts to correct excessive vocalization have failed."
Animal abuse and reportingFour major revisions encompass this statement, Crimi notes.
"We acknowledge the profession recognizes the link between animal abuse and domestic violence," she says. "We say our profession has an obligation to take an active role; we actively support state legislation for mandatory reporting of animal abuse; and veterinary hospital teams need to be educated so we can actively participate in identifying and reporting."
EuthanasiaThe strongest component to this statement, according to Crimi, is that AAHA actively states, "adoptable animals should not be victims of 'convenience euthanasia.' "
Three additional points:
DeclawingThis new position builds on other veterinary groups' previously written material.
Several major points:
Ear cropping/tail dockingThe ear cropping/tail docking statement represents a shift in ideology.
"We went from a position of just wanting practitioners to educate the clients that they're optional, to actually stating we oppose them when done for cosmetic reasons," says Crimi.
AAHA states these procedures only should be performed if medically necessary.
Adds Crimi, "We're actively encouraging elimination of the procedures from breed standards, which is a very clear message to outside industry, breeders and AKC."
Expected word on streetCrimi remains hopeful regarding the profession's response to the statements. "Veterinarians are animal welfarists at heart. For us to be tackling these tough issues and leading the profession with these strong statements, I think they'll say, 'I feel AAHA really does represent me.' "
Welborn hesitates to gauge estimated impact, saying, "Like any statement the association might make, it can be used as a resource for practitioners to (formulate) their own opinions."
Adds Crimi, "Our overriding mantra is to do the right thing."
Glimpse of futureThe statements are "Phase 1" of the taskforce's upcoming plans. AAHA is working on nine related projects designed to be collaboration among groups including the AVMA.
Welborn says certain projects will address guardianship; the feral cat situation, evolution of the companion animal bond and its implications on pets' value.
When asked whether AAHA plans to lobby for legislation pertaining to animal welfare issues highlighted in its position statements, Crimi hedged, saying "I guess I won't go there right now."