PVMA Keystone Veterinarian Spring 2021 - 24

The Role of Large
Animal Veterinarians
in Animal Welfare
Veterinarians in large animal practice
are often placed in the unique and
challenging position of balancing the
health and welfare of their patients with
the needs and desires of producers,
public opinion on humane animal
treatment, and protection of public
health. While many laypeople and
industry professionals agree on the
importance of maintaining a high
standard of animal welfare, opinions
differ on how the physical and mental
needs of animals should be met.
" Good animal welfare requires disease
prevention and veterinary treatment,
appropriate shelter, management,
nutrition, humane handling, and humane
slaughter, " according to the American
Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).1

Animal Welfare in Production
Animal Species

The AVMA states that " an animal is in
a good state of welfare if (as indicated
by scientific evidence) it is healthy,
comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able
to express innate behavior, and if it is not
suffering from unpleasant states such as
pain, fear, and distress. " 1 In production
animal medicine, welfare " ties together
all facets of caring for our production
animals, including their nutritional status,
shelter and husbandry practices, humane
handling techniques, and physical
health, " says Dr. Jody Kull of Valley Mobile
Veterinary Services.
The mental health of these animals is
a crucial component of animal welfare.
This is highlighted in the AVMA, FVE
(Federation of Veterinarians of Europe),
and CVMA (Canadian Veterinary Medical
Association) joint statement on the roles
of veterinarians in promoting animal
welfare: " sentient animals are capable
of experiencing positive physical and
emotional states (or feelings), including
but not limited to comfort and pleasure,
as well as negative states, such as pain,
fear, and frustration. " 2 Two areas that
are often critiqued based on the mental
health of production animals are housing
and slaughter practices.

Animal Welfare Legislation and
Guidelines
Minimal legislation exists regarding
welfare of production animals at
both federal and state levels. Federal
legislation surrounding welfare is sparse
and often excludes production animals.
Notable laws include:
*	 The Animal Welfare Act of 1966,
which sets " minimum standards
of care and treatment for animals
bred for commercial sale, used in
24 | Keystone Veterinarian

By Kate Boatright, VMD

research, transported commercially,
or exhibited to the public, " 3 but
excludes mice, livestock, and horses
not bred for research purposes.
*	 The Humane Animal Slaughter
Act, first passed in 1958, which
requires that animals be rendered
unconscious prior to slaughter to
minimize pain. This act excludes
poultry.
*	 The Horse Protection Act, which
prevents soring, a practice to
accentuate a horse's gait.
*	 The Preventing Animal Cruelty
and Torture (PACT) Act, which was
passed in 2019, makes severe forms
of animal cruelty a federal offense.
The act protects " living non-human
mammals, birds, reptiles, or
amphibians " from being " purposely
crushed, burned, drowned,
suffocated, impaled, or otherwise
subjected to serious bodily injury. " 4

Federal legislation such as the Animal
Welfare Act and Humane Slaughter
Act are usually enforced by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture Animal
and Plant Health Inspection Services
(USDA-APHIS) and Food Safety
Inspection Services (FSIS), which employ
veterinarians in addition to other experts.
Most animal welfare legislation is handled
at the state level. In Pennsylvania,
legislation protecting welfare of
production animals is extremely limited.
The existing Pennsylvania cruelty
statutes have only one mention of cows,
specifically regarding the enhancement
of udder appearance. Otherwise, the
animal cruelty laws in the state provide
guidelines for dogs, cats, and horses.
Some other states do have existing or
proposed legislation regarding housing
and care of poultry, swine, and cattle.
However, consistency is lacking between



PVMA Keystone Veterinarian Spring 2021

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