Monday, April 1, 2019

Animal Welfare Definition and Principles

"Animal Welfare is fast becoming THE major challenge of the Veterinary profession for this century" - Dr. Bernie Osborn

          Pets. According to the American Pet Product Association's 2011-2012 National Pet Owner's Survey, over 60% of households have at least one, if not more. From small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles, and even mice, to dogs, cats, horses, and some even have cows they consider pets. For most of us, they are cherished family members, another living being we share our homes, and lives with. Sadly, some consider them as no more than objects, including our government; a symbol of status, or something to show us love or to hold power over. No matter how we view the animals we have brought into our lives, we have a moral obligation to properly care for them, and show them the respect they deserve, and that we demand; as living beings on this earth. Despite how much we love our pets, many pet owners don't know the definition, policies, standard, or principles of basic Animal Welfare. This blog is being written to outline those four parts of welfare. 

          There are numerous perspectives and personal definitions of welfare, as well as various means of measuring it, including using an animal's health or productivity, behavior, and physiological responses, but the American Veterinary Medical Association; a medical authority for the health and welfare of animals, clearly outlines a definition and eight(8) principles for welfare and a list of welfare policies. They provide various articles and information for the public on their website

         The Definition of Animal Welfare

          The definition of animal welfare, according to the AVMA is: how an animal mentally and physically copes with their living conditions. Ensuring welfare for animals is a human responsibility and consideration for all aspects of well-being, and includes: proper housing, management, nutrition, the prevention and treatment of disease, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane euthanasia. 

          This means, when you agree to take control of an animal and bring it into your life, you also agree to make sure they are provided with everything necessary to have a healthy, safe life. Consideration of your honest ability to do so for the foreseeable future, and the expected lifespan of an animal, should be heavily considered and factored into the decision to get a pet. Of course, extenuating circumstances can occur and change your ability to care for your pet; such as loss of home or death, and cannot be foreseen, or prevented, but carefully consider all other aspects of your life and the resources available to you and for your potential pet before agreeing to take responsibility for the life of an animal. Also consider creating an emergency plan, other than abandonment or surrendering to a shelter, in the case of a life event that prevents you from continuing to care for your pet, either temporarily or permanently, such as losing your home and needing time to find a pet friendly place to live, if you become hospitalized, or, in the worst case, your death. This topic will be further covered in our "Emergency Planning for the Unexpected" article. 

The Eight(8) Animal Welfare Principles

          These eight Principles are integrated for the development and evaluation of animal welfare policies, resolutions, and actions.

  1.  The responsible use of animals for human purposes, such as companionship, food, fiber, recreation, work, education, exhibition, and research conducted for the benefit of both humans and animals, is consistent with the Veterinarians Oath.
  2.  Decisions regarding animal care, use, and welfare shall be made by balancing scientific knowledge, and professional judgement with consideration of ethical and societal values. 
  3.  Animals must be provided water, food, proper handling, health care, and an environment appropriate to their care and use, with thoughtful consideration for their species-typical biology and behavior.
  4. Animals should be cared for in ways that minimize pain, fear, stress, and suffering.
  5. Procedures related to animal housing, management, care, and use should be continuously evaluated, and when indicated, refined or replaced.
  6. Conservation and management of animal populations should be humane, socially responsible, and scientifically prudent. 
  7. Animals shall be treated with respect and dignity throughout their lives and, when necessary, provided a humane death.
  8. The veterinary profession shall continually strive to improve animal health and welfare through scientific research, education, collaboration, advocacy, and the development of legislation and regulations.
          Now, you may be asking, "why do I need to know these principles?" It's true, most of them pertain to vets and other animal care professionals, or scientists and our obligation to upkeep a standard for Animal Welfare, but I believe it is important for the general public to understand these principles, and assist in upholding the standards and ensuring those in the animal industry are being held to them. Rule #7 is especially important for all people, not just the professionals, to be aware of and uphold. Animals, just like humans, are living beings that deserve to be treated with respect and dignity for the entirety of their lives. Rules #3 and #4 relate to every person's moral and ethical obligations to the animals in their care, be it a professional or your average pet owner. Animals depend on and trust us to care for them and provide for their needs; this expectation is no different than a child or elderly relative we care for would expect, and should be taken as seriously as such. 

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it informative, the next article will be on the Guidelines of the Animal Care Policy, and the "Golden Standard" of Animal Care.

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