Day in and day out, veterinarians work tirelessly to care for our companion animals. On some days, they experience the joy of performing an initial wellness exam on a newly rescued dog or cat. And on other days, they help us through painful and heartbreaking decisions and final moments with our best friends.
Last month, the American Veterinary Medical Association Executive Board voted to revise to the oath taken by veterinarians to highlight animal welfare as a priority. The Board added the parts in bold to the existing oath:
“Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.”
For more on the process of how this change came about, check out the article, Veterinarian’s Oath Revised to Emphasis Animal Welfare Commitment on the AVMA’s website.
Earlier this month, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians Board of Directors released its Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, which is the result of the two-year ASV Shelter Standards Project initiative. The Guidelines address the “Five Freedoms”:
- Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.
- Freedom from Discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
- Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
- Freedom to Express Normal Behavior– by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
- Freedom from Fear and Distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
The Guidelines come up with 12 recommendations for animal shelters in the following areas: management and record keeping, facility design and environment, population management, sanitation, medical health and physical well-being, behavioral health and mental well-being, group housing, animal handling, euthanasia, spay/neuter, transport, and public health.
If you would like to know more, visit the ASV website’s information page about the Project, which includes a link to the full version of the 65-page Guidelines.
These developments – particularly with the AVMA oath – are timely considering a recent MSNBC story, “When I Die, So Does My Dog: Some Pet Owners Take Animals To Their Graves.” Reading that story made me wonder if a vet would or could refuse to euthanize a healthy companion animal like the two-year old Yorkie mentioned. As I delve more into pet trusts, I vow to educate a client who wished to have their pets euthanized upon their death about this new oath and the many wonderful options for caregivers. [Hint, hint – to learn more about estate planning options for your companion animals, keep your eye out for a certain upcoming NovaDog Magazine article!]