BALTIMORE — Veterinarians need to engage the public in dialogue about animal-welfare issues.
That was one message from Dr. Tom Lenz, who delivered the keynote address at the American Association of Equine Practitioners
(AAEP) meeting last month. Veterinary medicine is the most credible profession to establish sound welfare principles, but
veterinarians haven't yet entered the public discourse in meaningful ways, Lenz contends.
"We have engaged industry, government and even activists, but we haven't truly engaged the public in this dialogue," Lenz
And while veterinary medicine is actively addressing the physiological needs of animals, the public is making its decision
often on the psychological well-being of these animals.
While he is quick to recognize the inroads AAEP officials have made on equine-welfare issues like race-day medications, breakdowns,
soring, unwanted horses and even welfare concerns for carriage horses, he believes the profession can step up its leadership
role in helping policy makers balance the physiological and psychological aspects to animal welfare.
"I think, as a profession, we have to understand that science informs, but people make decisions. There is a social component
to animal abuse and animal care that we need to recognize. We should also recognize that frequently emotion and misinformation
triumphs over science and fact just because of the way it is presented."
Lenz knows. In fact, over a 30-year career as an equine veterinarian, he has emerged as a prominent voice regarding equine
welfare issues. He chairs the American Horse Council's Unwanted Horse Coalition; he's past president of AAEP, serves on the
AAEP's Animal Welfare Committee and remains a member of the AAEP President's Advisory Board and Public Policy Committee. His
career has spanned from private equine practice to academia to corporate business.