In the public eye

In the public eye

Animal welfare: Profession should be actively involved in the debate, AAEP keynote presenter says
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Jan 01, 2011

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 says.

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.