Animal Welfare Redux

Dear Colleagues,

“Bold.” … “Laughable.” … “Thought-provoking.” … “Insulting.” … “The most enlightened comments on the topic that have come out of the AVMA in a very long time!” … “Congratulations and kudos.” … “Offensive.” … “Enlightened.”

Veterinarians from all walks of professional life joined the animal welfare discussion in response to May’s issue of AVMA@Work, in which we discussed animal welfare issues and the leadership role veterinarians – and the AVMA – can and should play in helping frame the animal welfare debate through a proactive, responsible, science-based approach.

As you can see from the sampling of comments above, there was no holding back when it came to readers sharing their thoughts with us about the topic and what we had to say. The number and tone of the responses proves that animal welfare is indeed an issue of great current interest. The passionate nature of the feedback confirms the importance of the AVMA’s decision to make animal welfare one of our top strategic initiatives, and it also reflects the wide variety of opinions on animal welfare issues.

So let’s keep the ball rolling. We invite you to attend an international animal welfare symposium being hosted by the AVMA and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges that will offer insights into animal welfare issues, explore the process of how we make welfare decisions and consider delivery mechanisms for related education. The AVMA Executive Board approved co-hosting the symposium June 6, so details are still being worked out. We will provide more information to you as it becomes available. We also ask that you take a look at our new AVMA Animal Welfare section of the AVMA Web site. These are just two more examples of how we – as veterinarians – can help play a larger role in the health and well-being of our nation’s animals.

There is new evidence that the One Health Initiative – the AVMA’s program to link human and animal medicine – is an idea whose time has truly come. It appears it’s catching on around the world, including a new program we’ve just learned about in Europe – the Immuno Valley Consortium. The Consortium is a partnership of educational and industrial institutions, and local and regional governments in the Netherlands working to link animal and human health in that country.

Professor Arno Vermeulen, Ph.D., general manager of the Immuno Valley Consortium, contacted the AVMA after he discovered they had a partner across the Atlantic from reading an editorial in a scientific journal and AVMA press releases on the One Health Initiative. The Consortium has been in the planning stages for two years, and moved forward with grants from the Dutch government and private partners, including Pfizer UK. Immediate past president, Dr. Roger Mahr, who launched the One Health Initiative at the AVMA two years ago, addressed the Consortium kickoff, via videoconference, on June 3 to discuss the similarities and synergies between the two programs and the opportunities for future collaboration.

When it comes to the overall health of companion animals, few things generate more interest among your clients than good nutrition and the safety and efficacy of vaccines. That’s why the Scientific Activities Division at the AVMA recently took advantage of two opportunities to weigh in on these critical issues – one with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on improving pet food labeling and the other with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the labeling of vaccines.

Since the FDA delegates the therapeutic claim validation process to you – the veterinary practitioner – we urged the FDA to require that all pet food products with a health or drug claim carry a prominent statement on the label indicating that “these claims have not been evaluated or verified by the FDA.” This language, if required on pet food labels, will offer you a level of protection as well as provide transparency and information to your clients.

We also asked the FDA to include caloric information on all dog and cat foods and treats, primarily because obesity and its related conditions are such a growing problem in the pet population. Providing caloric information on pet foods will give you and your clients information that will allow for better nutritional choices.

You also spend a great deal of time talking about vaccines with your clients, and, obviously, the more information you have at your disposal, the more productive those discussions can be. That is why the AVMA helped spearhead a new initiative being considered by the USDA to publish Web-based summaries of vaccine efficacy and safety studies used to support new product licenses, permits and product revisions.

The AVMA continues to devote a great deal of time and resources to the subject of improving biologic product labels because we know it’s a topic of great importance to you, your clients and the patients in your care. We’ll keep you posted on any developments regarding both pet food and vaccine labeling.

Last year, the Foresight Report (“Envisioning the Future of Veterinary Medical Education: The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Foresight Project, Final Report”), funded by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, made some thought-provoking statements about the future of veterinary medical education. Calling for fundamental changes to the educational system, the authors stated that, in order to remain relevant to the needs of society, veterinary medical education must prepare new veterinarians for what might come in the future, not for what can be seen now.

Most of the folks who have an interest in the future of veterinary medical education are still digesting its contents and wondering where they fit into the call for change. The AVMA is certainly one of those interested parties. We are in the process of forming a task force to analyze the report and determine what proposals we can support. One key area is balancing workforce needs with our desire to maintain the gold standard that is AVMA accreditation. We also need to explore how the “fundamental changes” that are called for in the report will affect licensure. This report will open the door to discussions that could have a far-reaching impact on veterinary education and the future of our profession. The task force hopes to report its findings to the AVMA Executive Board at its April 2009 meeting.

Finally, Dr. DeHaven and I want to share with you two accomplishments in our Education and Research, and Communications divisions.

The Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities recently reached a significant milestone when it accredited its 150th veterinary technician program. CVTEA is arguably one of the hardest-working entities of the AVMA, and the growing number of programs seeking accreditation from the committee is proof that veterinary technician programs around the country are recognizing our commitment to being the gold standard in veterinary technician accreditation.

And if haven’t seen our new career DVD, “Veterinary Medicine: It’s More Than You Think,” you need to join the crowd. The video recently won a Gold Award in the Hermes Creative Awards 2008 competition from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals. This is the third award the video has garnered. Available in both English and Spanish, as well as closed-captioned for the hearing impaired, you can order the 29-minute DVD for just $5, plus shipping and handling, by e-mailing or by calling (847) 285-6655.

Here’s hoping that you’re enjoying the first days of the summer season. We hope to see you at our 145th Annual Convention in New Orleans, July 19 – July 22.


Hammer signature DeHaven signature
Gregory S. Hammer, DVM
W. Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA
Executive Vice President

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