Comments Sought on Animal Welfare Policies

Your opinions – and your expertise – matter. Recognizing that few topics inspire as much interest and passion as animal welfare, we are pleased to offer AVMA members the opportunity to provide comments on animal welfare-related policies that are under review or are being developed. The most recent list includes nine animal welfare-related policies or proposed policies that are being considered by the Animal Welfare Committee, which serves an advisory role to the AVMA Executive Board.

While the Animal Welfare Committee values AVMA member input, we’d like to remind you that the comment process isn’t intended to be a referendum on a particular policy. In other words, we’re not looking for your vote; we’re really interested in your substantive comments on topics of interest to you or in which you might have special expertise. And if you can provide appropriate citations from scientific literature or verifiable practice data in your comments, that will be even more helpful.

All the comments we receive are confidential and will not be made available for public review. The comment period ends March 1. Thanks in advance for your participation.

10 thoughts on “Comments Sought on Animal Welfare Policies

  1. I am certain the Elephant in the Spiriva Commercial, is in some distress and it bothers me greatly. It also appears that it is a very , very young Elephant, this just shouldn’t be done for the purpose of selling medicinal products, and
    I happen to suffer with COPD, my doctor was going too prescribe Spiriva for me, and I told her absolutely NOT, as
    long as they are using this poor Elephant in their commercials. I am using another medication, and doing well, please don’t use this Elephant any more, It should still be with its Mother, or at least in a free Social Group of Elephants. While I am at it, why is there no information about it when you do a search. Every commercial has info on their actors or animals, posted, and I can find them all except this one, which indicates it must be something they are afraid to discuss.

  2. Using that elephant or any captive wild animal is simply wrong…no matter what BS you throw at us trying to convince us tha it’s OK…and you know it!

  3. I still think it is inhumane to use wild animals in television commercials. Especially the elephant in the spiriva commercial. I think the ad should be stopped. The drug company should be fined. Proceeds to go to animal welfare agencies/education.

  4. Wouldn’t the use of the guide and chain be completely unnecessary if these performing elephants were retired and finally allowed to live a life that they are supposed to be living? I would bet they would be far happier wandering outdoors, exploring, swimming, and playing at their leisure with other elephants. Isnt there plenty of technogy these days to create a “CGI” (or whatever it’s called) elephant for things like this tv ad? I’m guessing that would make all parties involved much happier, especially the elephants, who would finally be able to live their lives doing the things that are natural to them.

  5. Just do not use elephants for commercials or other projects where the elephants have to be trained for. They belong in the wild and when we encroach, we should move and shelter them in places where they can roam free. There are enough places on this earth where we can witness the greatness of this animal without putting the chains on.

  6. Thank you for this opportunity.

    I am concerned about animals and all living creatures used in ads on television, in TV shows, and for entertainment generally. The Spiriva ad that uses an elephant, for example, does not seem to care about that elephant. I believe it is a very young elephant in one of the ads, and I wonder about how they are attending to this elephant’s needs. The elephant clearly has nothing to do with the product, so it detracts from their intention as well, but that is not the issue here.

    Other shows such as Fear Factor have people eating slugs and other creatures that are alive for entertainment! On America’s Got Talent, there was a snake and a tiger onstage, and this was very concerning given their natural habitat is anything but a Las Vegas or other stage. These are just some examples. To the viewing public, it is not clear whether these animals are properly cared for or not. I hope you or others are attending to their needs, but I do not know how the television industry is regulated on behalf of animals.

    I appreciate your attention to all animals used for entertainment purposes. Please let me know what can be done to support them, if possible.

    Thanks in advance —

    Jeannette Gerzon

  7. Expressing much concern with population issues and obtaining a solution with our local animal control centers. Much research and data is now available to us all when it concerns the euthanasia practices currently used today. The operations of gas chambers as an euthanasia method should no longer be accepted as a standard euthanasia method due to the excessive suffering inflicted on the animals.

    Carol Fuller

  8. We would like to add that the existing policy statements have served us well, as animal rights extremists are continually backing legislation to eliminate the use of the guide and tethers in elephant management. On multiple occasions we have been able to inform state veterinary associations that AVMA’s elephant welfare policy statements exist, so that the state associations have had a solid basis for opposing such legislation.
    ~Drs. Jim and Linda Peddie~

  9. During the past 40 years we have performed important work benefiting elephants. We participated in developing the trunk wash method required by USDA for annual testing for tuberculosis in elephants. We helped ascertain therapeutic blood levels of drugs used in the treatment of tuberculosis in elephants. We have helped to implement artificial insemination procedures necessary for the propagation of the endangered Asian elephant. We could not have achieved success had we not been working with well trained and cooperative elephants. NEVER have we had an adverse incident during the countless hours we have spent working with elephants that have been trained through appropriate use of the guide (ankus) and tethers (chains). It is imperative that elephant keepers have the use of those implements traditionally used in training and handling the animals in their care, making it possible to safely render the level of veterinary care we have attained.

    AVMA’s policy statements have served as invaluable reference pieces. We appreciate having the opportunity to offer our input as you review those statements. With regard to AVMA’s policy titled “Animals Used in Entertainment, Shows, and for Exhibition”, you are doubtless aware that the American Humane Association does an effective job of monitoring animal welfare on film sets. The elephant performers in “Water for Elephants”, “Zookeeper” and the Spiriva commercials were under the oversight of an AHA representative. Film work offers elephants behavioral enrichment, as they appear to enjoy learning new behaviors and varying routines.

    The AVMA policy statement titled “Elephant Guides and Tethers” begs further clarification.
    The goal in elephant training is for the elephant to respond to a verbal cue. A physical cue with the guide is used only when the elephant doesn’t respond to the verbal cue, e.g: if she can’t hear because background noise is too loud, or if she is confused about the command. The guide is used as lightly as possible, but as firmly as necessary to gain compliance. It should not be used in a forcible or abusive manner. It is in fact a physical guide.

    Considering the elephant’s size, strength and intelligence, tethering (chaining) is a necessary and safe method to restrict an elephant’s movements. Tethering can be utilized in locations where it is not feasible to build an enclosure or individual stalls adequate to provide temporary housing, or during travel. Tethering in the barn at night assures that the elephants won’t fight or pick on one another, that the more aggressive ones don’t take food away from the more passive ones, and that the food the elephants are eating is not contaminated by feces and urine. Chains are preferred for tethering mature elephants, because they do not harbor a bacterial load and can easily be cleaned and disinfected. Dirt and sand cannot get between the chain and the elephant’s skin and cause chafing like it can with other materials. The elephant
    can comfortably lie down, rise easily, and visit with her immediate neighbors when properly tethered.

    The guide and tethers facilitate excellence in elephant management. Concomitantly, the level of veterinary care we are able to provide is defined by the level of training attained with the individual elephant.

    We take exception to the last sentences in each of the two paragraphs in the AVMA Elephant Guides and Tethers statement. “The AVMA condemns the use of guides to puncture, lacerate, strike or inflict harm upon an elephant” is an idealistic statement. In the real world it may be necessary to strike an unruly or aggressive elephant to prevent injury to either the animal or its handler. The same applies to any large animal and its handler. We are certainly not condoning abuse. Neither are we damning an animal handler who makes an appropriate move to prevent injury. “The guide should be used in a manner consistent with the safety and well being of both the elephant and its keeper” might be a more appropriate statement.

    “The AVMA only supports the use of tethers for the shortest time required for specific management purposes” is another idealistic statement that fails to take into consideration that tethering an elephant that is not familiar with the process can have adverse effects. Routine tethering desensitizes the animal to the process so that tethering to facilitate medical care will not be unduly stressful. Additionally, tethering is part of good elephant husbandry, as described earlier. “Tethers should be used in a manner consistent with the safety and well being of both the elephant and its keeper” might be more appropriate.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Drs. Jim and Linda Peddie

    • Thank you for taking time to explain the use of restraints on elephants. People are required to keep their domesticated animals on leashes or under some kind of “control” when they are outside the confines of their homes. Elephants wouldn’t do well with a leash of rope or leather or for that matter a collar controlled by radio waves. Sometimes it helps to have a response such as yours to put opinions into context.