American College of Animal Welfare Moves Forward Without Sign-off Requirement for AVMA Welfare Principles

December 6, 2010

The organizers of the American College of Animal Welfare (ACAW) have removed a provision requiring veterinarians who are seeking candidacy in the specialty to sign a statement agreeing with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Principles of Animal Welfare. Other requirements—including obtaining advanced education and training in animal welfare and passing a comprehensive examination—remain. The college still has to be approved by the American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS).

“I am extremely pleased that the founders of the ACAW have decided to remove the mandatory ‘sign-off’ provision that was going to be required of all candidates for board certification in the ACAW. The founders should be congratulated for re-examining their position on this issue and determining that this was not in the best interest of the college or the profession,” said Gary Block, DVM, MS, DACVIM, one of the signatories on a letter of concern sent to the ACAW by approximately 70 veterinarians board-certified in a variety of specialties. Dr. Block is a member of the HSVMA Board of Directors.

“Mandating that candidates agree with all the AVMA Animal Welfare Principles would have limited diversity of opinion and ideas and discouraged a number of qualified candidates from applying to the College,” continued Block. “Only by fully embracing this diversity will members of this college be able to take on some of the difficult and contentious animal welfare issues that are currently confronting our profession.”

Concerns voiced by many in profession

The requirement that veterinarians interested in becoming board certified in animal welfare agree with AVMA animal welfare principles had been a concern for many veterinarians, and a substantial number had relayed those thoughts to the college during a comment period that ended Nov. 1.

Comments submitted included the letter, signed by the 70 board-certified veterinarians, which noted that no other veterinary board specialty has a requirement that members agree with AVMA principles and that such a provision would effectively inhibit independent thinking of board specialists on critical animal welfare issues ranging from animal use in research and education to assessment of farm animal welfare.

More specifically, the letter from the veterinarians noted, “The most potentially contentious of these principles is the first, which states, ‘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 Veterinarian’s Oath."

“We look forward to the creation of a board specialty that recognizes not only training and knowledge in animal welfare science, but also the ability to independently assess critical animal welfare issues,” the letter concluded.

With the news that the provision has been removed, veterinarians who submitted comments praised college organizers for responding to the concerns of their colleagues.

“The ACAW organizers are to be congratulated for addressing this issue,” said Debra Teachout, DVM, MVSc, an HSVMA member from Illinois who is considering applying for the board specialty.  “There is a critical need for our profession to establish a specialty that recognizes all leaders in the field of animal welfare science, not just those who agree with certain welfare principles.”

“Now we can move forward collaboratively with a board specialty that fosters independent thinking among experts on animal welfare issues that were previously given inadequate attention in veterinary education and our profession as a whole,” said Barry Kipperman, DVM, DACVIM, another signatory to the letter to the ACAW and an HSVMA member from California.

For more information on the American College of Animal Welfare and the petition guidelines, visit the ACAW website.