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Vet Association Updates Stance On Welfare Issues

by Patricia Collier

A taskforce formed by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has redefined the Association's official positions on a set of key animal welfare issues, which include animal abuse, convenience euthanasia, declawing, devocalization and ear cropping/tail docking.

The positions were approved by the AAHA's board in mid-October and represent what the organization calls "Phase 1" of the taskforce's assignment.

"Animal welfare has been a topic of increasing importance to the profession recently," said Dr. Link Welborn, AAHA president, private practitioner and taskforce member. "We felt it was important for the association to give our members guidance as far as the association's perspectives."

The issues, and the AAHA's corresponding statement regarding each, are as follows:

1. Canine 'Devocalization.'

The statement says canine devocalization "should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians as a final alternative after behavioral modification efforts to correct excessive vocalization have failed."

Dr. Charles Lippincott, a retired practitioner in Medford, Ore., wrote a paper on the 'benefits' of canine devocalization in the 1990s, but said he understands the public perception might not be as positive these days..

"The climate has changed. Political correctness is spilling over into animal care. Right or wrong, it has changed what things are being done," Lippincott said recently.

2. Animal Abuse And Reporting.

"The profession of veterinary medicine recognizes the link between animal abuse and domestic violence," said Dr. Merry Crimi, taskforce chair and private practitioner. "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."

3. Euthanasia.

According to the AAHA, "adoptable animals should not be victims of 'convenience euthanasia'."

The statement demands euthanasia, when necessary, be pain and anxiety-free and carried out with a sense of dignity. The statement adds: "Euthanasia is a very delicate decision best left to animal owners and the attending veterinarian."

4. Declawing.

The new position is that declawing of domestic cats is not medically necessary and should only be considered when wounds created by claws would present health risks to humans, such as the elderly or those with immune suppression issues.

The statement adds: "Veterinarians have an obligation to educate cat owners completely on declawing before performing the procedure."

It also states, "Declawing should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively."

5. Ear Cropping/Tail Docking.

"We went from a position of just wanting practitioners to educate clients that they're optional, to actually stating we oppose them when done for cosmetic reasons," Crimi said.

The AAHA's official statement on this issue now is that the procedures should be performed only if medically necessary.

"We're actively encouraging elimination of the procedures from breed standards, which is a very clear message to outside industry, breeders and AKC," Crimi said.

AAHA is working on nine more related projects, which will be a collaboration among groups including the AVMA. The additional projects will be considered "Phase 2" of the taskforce's assignment and will address guardianship, the feral cat situation and evolution of the companion animal bond and its implications on the value of pets.

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."

2004 Animal News Center, Inc.

 

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