Veterinarians are charged not only in providing for the health and welfare of animals, but also for the community in which the animals live. We are in a position to observe and evaluate situations in which animals are being abused, either unintentionally as a result of ignorance, or intentionally as a result of cruel and malicious efforts on the part of an individual(s). As cited in the AAHA position statement on Animal Welfare, “Intentional forms of animal abuse can be indicators of other forms of violence. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between animal abuse and other forms of family violence, including child abuse, spousal abuse and elder abuse.” (www.aahanet.org)
We, as veterinarians, are encouraged to take an active role in detecting, preventing and reporting suspected cases of intentional animal abuse. It is recommended that accurate and detailed documentation be made when dealing with such cases (www.avma.org).
North Carolina has laws protecting veterinarians who, in good faith, report suspected cases of intentional animal abuse which may also be indicative of domestic violence.
The NCVMA supports the adoption of laws recommending, under limited circumstances, veterinarians to report suspected cases of intentional animal abuse. These laws should exempt and provide immunity to veterinarians from civil and criminal liability for reporting such cases in good faith and in so doing exempt them from any disciplinary action.
The NCVMA upholds the AVMA policy on animal welfare vs. animal rights. That policy is stated as follows, “Animal welfare is a human responsibility that encompasses all aspects of animal well being, including proper housing, management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane euthanasia.”
Animal welfare and animal rights are not synonymous terms. Animal rights is a philosophical view and personal value characterized by an underpinning belief that animals should have positive legal rights and legal benefits and seeks to change their status or standing in the legal system for the protection or promotion of their interests. Classical animal welfare theory prescribes humane treatment and care of animals and the prevention of unnecessary suffering. All animals under our care are to be provided adequate food, water, shelter, medical attention, and freedom from unnecessary stress or pain. Owners and caretakers of all animals must be held accountable for assuring that these conditions are met. As veterinarians, it is our responsibility to promote and ensure the utmost standards of care for these different animal groups. It is our responsibility to enable animals to fulfill their destiny free from unnecessary pain, deprivation or artificially induced stress by enforcing humane treatment, appropriate husbandry, and scientific stewardship.
The NCVMA recognizes and supports the use of animals for food production, research, teaching, safety testing, exhibition, therapy, sporting and human companionship. However, the guiding principles of humane stewardship must prevail in all aspects of animal ownership. Standards of care for each category of animal population should be determined by experienced individuals who are trained and knowledgeable with the nature, behavior, needs, and idiosyncrasies of that particular group of animals. A detailed description of standards of care for animals used in research and teaching, animals used in entertainment, show and exhibitions, companion animals, horses, wildlife and captive exotic animals, and food animals such as cattle, sheep, swine and poultry can be found in the AVMA Policy Statements and Guidelines.
OWNERSHIP VS. GUARDIANSHIP OF ANIMALS
The NCVMA upholds the role of animal ownership by humans rather than a relationship of guardianship. We believe in humane stewardship of animals and the existence of a hierarchy of animals in the food chain of nature. The term “animal guardianship” is defined as a person or institution who is legally responsible for the care of animals and as such can be manipulated by special interest groups and animal rights advocates to invoke legal barriers that may decrease the availability of veterinarians, owners, and caretakers to provide needed services and reasonable care, thereby ultimately resulting in unnecessary animal suffering and emerging threats to public health and safety. Taken to extreme, guardianship statutes would undermine the protective care that owners can provide for their animals and the freedom of choice owners now are free to exercise, and could permit third parties to petition courts for custody of a pet, livestock, or animal for which they do not approve of the husbandry practices(1). Furthermore, if guardianship is conferred, in the absence of a person or institution that is legally responsible, the state would assume all responsibilities for care.
(1) The Council of State Governments: Resolution on Animal Guardianship and Liability Legislation in CSG Policy (ed):2004
The decision to declaw a cat should be made by the owner in consultation with their veterinarian. The declawing of cats may become necessary for medical or behavioral reasons and should be used instead of abandonment or euthanasia.
- Veterinarians are trained to distinguish medical and behavioral problems and need to be able to continue to educate and counsel clients.
- Veterinarians do not take the issue of declawing lightly and strive to educate pet owners about available alternatives.
- Claw removal is sometimes medically necessary for conditions such as tumors or chronic infections.
- Studies have proven that behavioral problems are the leading cause of unnecessary relinquishment of animals.
- Not all pet owners are able to successfully train a cat to refrain from using its claws in a destructive manner.
- Owners who are elderly or disabled may lack the ability or means to provide the needed training
- Owners, or those living on or otherwise coming on to the premises, may be immunocompromised and thus more susceptible to diseases transmitted through feline clawing.
- Still others may be faced with pets that are particularly resistant to training.
- Current surgical techniques and modern anesthetic and pain medications have greatly reduced the pain and discomfort associated with cat declawing.
- Euthanasia, abandonment, or other forms of relinquishment should not be the last resort for the cat owning public.
*The NCVMA supports the CVMA's position on Cat Declawing June 2010
The NCVMA opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes. The NCVMA encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards.
*The NCVMA supports the AVMA's position on Ear Cropping and Tail Docking of Dogs June 2010
As veterinarians, we endorse the following eight principles founded on our education, experience, commitment to and compassion for animals:
- Animals are sentient beings with wants and needs that may differ from those of humans and are worthy of respect from individuals and society.
- Animals’ interests should be given thoughtful consideration by individuals and society when determining acceptable care and use. This requires the balancing of scientific knowledge and ethical, philosophical, and moral values.
- Acceptable care and use of an animal may not always serve the individual animal, but should be balanced by the greater benefits to other animals, humans, or society.
- Animals should be used purposefully, whether for food and fiber, recreation, companionship, transportation, work, education, or the advancement of scientific knowledge.
- Animals should be provided with water, nutrition, and an environment appropriate to their care and use, with consideration for their safety, health, and species-specific biological needs and behavioral natures.
- Animals should be cared for in ways that minimize fear, pain, suffering, and distress.
- Through an owner’s actions, animals should be provided with timely and appropriate preventive, medical, dental, and surgical care, and an effort should be made to ensure that animals reproduce responsibly.
- Animals should be provided a humane death.
*The NCVMA supports the CVMA's position on Principles of Animal Care and Use June 2010
The word “euthanasia” comes from the Greek terms eu meaning “good” and thanatos meaning “death”. A “good death” may be defined as one that occurs with minimal pain and distress. In the context of this position statement, euthanasia is the act of inducing humane death in an animal. It is our responsibility as veterinarians and human beings to ensure that if an animal’s life must be ended, it is done with dignity, respect, and with minimal pain and suffering. Only a licensed veterinarian or a properly trained and certified technician should perform euthanasia.
The NCVMA supports euthanasia of animals harbored in shelters when no one wants them and there is no hope they will find a home in a reasonably acceptable period of time. We support euthanasia of critically ill or injured animals when the owners cannot or will not assume financial responsibility for proper medical care of a suffering animal, or there is no effective way to relieve pain and suffering. Whenever humanely possible, the owner or agent of the animal must provide written authorization for euthanasia. Euthanasia must then be performed immediately.
An animal that has bitten or scratched a human or other animal, or otherwise potentially exposed any person or other animal to rabies in the past (10) days, must be tested for rabies after euthanasia.
The NCVMA supports intravenously-administered (IV) euthanasia by injection (EBI) as the preferred method of companion animal euthanasia. However, in an animal shelter setting, EBI also includes other forms of euthanasia administered by needle --- intra-peritoneal (into the abdomen), and intra-cardiac (into the heart). Intravenous (IV) injection requires maximal restraint and high level skill on the part of the person administering the injection. Intra peritoneal (IP) also requires physical restraint but has a slow onset of action, delayed loss of consciousness, and prolonged death. Intra-cardiac (IC) injection requires a very skilled technician, and should only be administered after the animal has been rendered unconscious by intramuscular injection of sedative or anesthesia.
The NCVMA also supports the proper use of carbon monoxide (CO) in animal shelters, in specific situations. A modern CO chamber is safe for animal shelter personnel and, unlike EBI, does not require close contact and forceful physical restraint of the animals, the handling of sharp needles and the administration of controlled drugs. CO is odorless, tasteless, and it quickly renders the animal unconscious with rapid death ensuing.
The NCVMA believes that a requirement for EBI in all shelters will result in inconsistent compliance, increased safety hazards for shelter personnel, increased taxpayer expense, and needless animal suffering. Counties with a modern and properly maintained CO chamber should be permitted to continue their use as an alternative to EBI when deemed less stressful for the animal and safer for shelter personnel.
The NCVMA supports the regulation and oversight of commercial dog breeders.
Some commercial breeders with large-scale operations have practices with devastating consequences to the welfare of animals. Over-crowded and unsanitary conditions, combined with irresponsible breeding practices and inadequate veterinary care, result in needless animal suffering.
Pet-owning consumers may face considerable financial and emotional hardship as a result of the purchase of unhealthy and/or poorly socialized companion animals that result from improper management practices.
Approved June 24, 2010 by the NCVMA Board of Director
Pet overpopulation has reached epidemic proportions. Millions of dollars are spent each year on animal control services and animal shelter facilities to manage unwanted pets in our state. Thousands of animals suffer needlessly. Euthanasia is a necessary but unfortunate means of humanely terminating the life of unwanted and marginalized animals. The NCVMA supports euthanasia of unwanted dogs and cats when there is no alternative choice for placement in a responsible home or other care facility. To alter the landscape of pet overpopulation, we need to reconsider what our responsibilities are as pet owners and thereby begin to change the pervasive attitude in our state that tolerates uncontrolled breeding of pet and stray animals and leads to pet overpopulation.
Until our society begins to routinely spay and neuter pets, we will have to continue to kill thousands of unwanted cats and dogs in our animal shelters each year.
The NCVMA supports Spay/Neuter education of the pet owning public and community at large. We encourage veterinarians to continue to initiate, promote, and participate in Spay/Neuter programs. The NCVMA recognizes and approves the valuable donation of services by many veterinarians in this endeavor. We encourage support from the informed, responsible, and concerned private sector to help fund these programs. We support local humane societies and shelters in adopting out only those dogs and cats which have been surgically sterilized. We approve the practice of pre-pubertal sterilization as a necessary means of accomplishing this end. We support differential license fees for sterilized vs. non-sterilized pets.
Annual examinations and vaccination boosters for canines and felines are recommended by the NCVMA. It is recommended that the particular vaccination administered at the time of the annual exam be determined by the risk of exposure to disease and the vaccine product being given.
Adult vaccination boosters should be custom-tailored to each individual pet based on a risk-assessment evaluation provided by the owner to the veterinarian. It is recommended that this risk-assessment evaluation be reviewed and communicated with the owner annually by the veterinarian or professional staff.
Whenever possible, vaccinations should be administered in conjunction with a thorough physical examination. Ancillary laboratory tests should be recommended to owners of pets with a higher than normal risk or history of adverse reaction to vaccination.
Pre-medication with appropriate medications for anaphylaxis as well as post-vaccination hospitalization and observation should be provided to animals with a known history of Immediate Type I and Type IV (slow onset) anaphylactic reaction to any vaccine.
Current vaccination protocols endorsed by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (www.aafponline.org) and the American Animal Hospital Association 2006 Canine Vaccination Guidelines (www.aahanet.org) can be referenced for your consideration.
The NCVMA protects our member’s private contact information as well as email addresses.
The NCVMA policy strictly prohibits the sharing, renting, or selling of email addresses or personal contact information from the NCVMA’s database.
If you are receiving SPAM at your email address, the NCVMA is not the source of those emails.
If you have evidence that member information from our member database (and website) has been compromised, please contact the NCVMA office immediately at 919-851-5850.