Ears to Elbows

Dear Colleagues,

You’ve seen mentions in previous issues of AVMA@Work about our new emphasis on animal welfare issues and the roles veterinarians play on what can often be a crowded stage, sometimes filled with conflict and contentious dialogue. It’s safe to say that you’re going to be seeing more of these items in the future, as we continue to focus many of our energies on being a leading advocate for, and an authoritative, science-based resource on, animal welfare.

This issue is one of those times.

Ear Cropping and Tail Docking
The AVMA Executive Board recently approved a revised policy on ear cropping and tail docking that has generated quite a bit of interest from the media and other groups. The revised policy is a result of a regularly scheduled, five-year review of our animal welfare policies.

As Dr. Gail Golab, director of the AVMA’s Animal Welfare Division, put it, our new approach to any animal welfare policy is going to be driven by one central question: Why do we do what we do? The answer to that question has a lot to do with where our policies end up.

When it comes to the changes in our ear cropping and tail docking policy, the Animal Welfare Committee asked why ears are cropped and why tails are docked. The answer, the committee decided, has a lot more to do with how a dog looks than its overall health and well-being.

That’s why we changed the policy language to read that the AVMA “opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes.” We also included language in the policy that states that the AVMA “encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards.”

The language is a reflection of our new level of advocacy on animal welfare issues. It’s also indicative of AVMA’s critical approach to animal welfare topics, where our primary concern is the animal and its welfare, not the players in the game. We are putting more emphasis on veterinarians’ scientific expertise to make critical evaluations irrespective of who the stakeholders are, while staying consistent with our guiding principles on animal welfare. And we are doing this because you – our members – expect us to take responsibility and create policies that are science-based and in the best interest of the animal.

This advocacy and new philosophy means more activity in the animal welfare arena is on the way.

Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation
For the first time since the early 1990s, the AVMA’s American Board of Veterinary Specialties has approved for public comment a petition for recognition of a brand new, stand-alone specialty organization – the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Now it’s your turn to get involved. Public comment must be sought as part of the rigorous approval process for any new specialty, and we welcome and value your thoughts about the proposed new specialty in sports medicine and rehabilitation.

What we’re looking for is input on whether a new specialty in the sports medicine and rehabilitation field will improve veterinary medical services to the public; whether there are enough potential diplomates to serve a clearly defined need within the profession; and whether this specialty represents a distinct and identifiable specialty of veterinary medicine, one that is supported by a base of scientific knowledge and practice and that is acceptable to the profession and the public.

That may seem like an awful lot to digest, but we can’t emphasize too strongly how important your comments are in this process. Your input will help us determine whether the process should go forward or needs to be slowed down a bit for further evaluation.

You can send your comments via e-mail, Fax or letter. Make sure that your name appears on the document; we can’t accept anonymous submissions. E-mail your comments to David Banasiak at dbanasiak@avma.org. Fax them to 847-285-5732. Or mail them to the AVMA, Attn. David Banasiak, 1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg IL, 60173.

The deadline for comments is Nov. 1. Thanks in advance for your input.

Staying in the Legislative Loop
One of the lesser-known services the AVMA provides is our Legislative Alerts. We read, analyze and summarize state legislation on a daily basis, helping the profession stay on top of emerging issues that affect veterinarians and how they do their jobs, provide services and run their businesses.

Looking for information on this year’s initiatives? If so, our legislative alerts can answer your questions. From noneconomic damages, breeder regulations, loan repayment programs, breed-specific legislation, animal cruelty laws, animal welfare initiatives and scope of practice issues, this year’s legislative dockets are full of proposed rules and laws.

As a matter of fact, staff members in our Department of State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs have analyzed a record 561 pieces of legislation since January 1. After combing through pages of legislation and deciphering the legalese, staff members send out summaries and links to the actual language of the bill to each state veterinary medical association.

These alerts help state VMAs and our members stay informed about what’s happening in the legislatures, providing them an opportunity to take a position either for or against a proposal. Whether it’s an organized association or a single voice, taking a position – and then taking action – can be critical to the future of our profession. So if you’re looking for a way to stay informed, check out our Legislative and Regulatory Tracking section on our Web page.

Weaving a Food Safety Web
Dr. DeHaven and I recently spent some time on the AVMA’s revamped Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Web page, and we urge you to do the same. The site, which the AVMA introduced back in September 2007 to a great deal of positive feedback, is even better today, with its user-friendly design, the addition of career videos and other features that really drive home the critical importance of careers in food safety.

The site also shows that food supply veterinary medicine really encompasses a wide variety of professional disciplines, including, but not limited to, private practice food animal practitioners, public health veterinarians, military veterinarians and veterinary pathologists.

While watching one of the many career videos, I was taken by a comment made by Dr. Kamela Davis, a public health veterinarian, who I think really captures the essence of the role veterinarians play in our lives. Dr. Davis’ comment that, “As long as there are animals … and people on this Earth, there will always be a need for veterinary medicine,” really hit home.

It’s this important message that the Web page so effectively brings to the public.

Call to Action
From biologic and therapeutic agents, to public health and the human-animal bond, the AVMA has councils and committees that represent every aspect of the veterinary profession. These volunteer entities, however, are only as effective as the people who commit to serving on them.

That’s why we are looking for volunteer leaders to help us conduct important work on behalf of our members and to set policy in all areas of veterinary medicine. If you want to see what opportunities are available, please visit our Web site and consider throwing your hat into the ring.


Cook signature DeHaven signature
James O. Cook, MS, DVM
W. Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA
Chief Executive Officer

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