Principles of Animal Welfare

As the world around us changes, we must as an organization evolve to reflect our ability to understand and adapt to challenges in numerous areas, such as an increasingly urban society, changes in how society views animals, increasing awareness of animal welfare issues, and improvements in animal health and husbandry.

When the CVMA Board of Directors considered creating the Principles of Animal Welfare, it was with the goal of having a tool that CVMA can utilize to evaluate issues and to guide CVMA in making consistent decisions when it comes to animal welfare. This could include position statements, legislation, and other “big picture” type activities.

Another goal was to create a useful tool for our members to use in their day to day lives—no matter what career we have chosen within veterinary medicine, we all face scenarios in which animal welfare considerations play a role. Here are a few examples—as you reflect on what you might do, consider if your response is based primarily on convenience, economics, or animal welfare:

• My city police chief calls and wants my help setting up an animal control and sheltering program.
• We want to re-evaluate our kenneloperation as it applies to our pet care.
• A ballot initiative on food animal housing and production systems comes forward, and CVMA is asked for its position.
• We are considering making pain management mandatory for surgical procedures at our hospital, to the exclusion of those who cannot afford it.
• The 4-H club wants me to evaluate their animal husbandry guidelines.
• A feral cat organization asks CVMA to eliminate the requirement for FIV/FeLV testing in its feral cat position statement because the test is too expensive for them.
• The city is considering an ordinance requiring higher registration fees for intact pets than for neutered pets and the city paper wants a comment.
• A horse processing facility is being constructed in a neighboring state, and the animal welfare community asks CVMA for its perspective and position.

Any of these situations can become a challenge when we try to sort out what is best for the animal, the owner, the business, and the organization. After an 18-month process of dialogue by a task force, discussions in board meetings, and member feedback, the final Principles of Animal Welfare were approved by the Board of Directors on November 9, 2008.

We don’t expect that these principles will provide us with an easy answer in every case, but hope they will help guide each of us and CVMA to consistent, reasonable answers as we face changing issues and environments for all species.


Dr. Melanie Marsden
Dr. Leon Anderson

We would like to thank the members of the task force on the Principles of Animal Welfare

Dr. Melanie Marsden, chair
Dr. Tom Parks
Dr. Leon Anderson
Dr. Catherine Hageman
Dr. Steve Sharkey
Dr. Stacy Hudelson
Dr. Cynthia Johnson
Dr. John Rule
Dr. Steve Benscheidt
Dr. Ken Newens
Dr. Allan Dorr
Dr. Gene Naugle
Dr. Jon Klingborg, consultant
Ralph Johnson, executive director