Every day a veterinarian has a good chance of being a hero—extracting a painful tooth, diagnosing the source of a lump, helping a dog to a much-needed sleep. It should be enough that they take good care of patients each day, but lately vets have been articulating a larger vision that means good things for animals.
In November, the American Veterinary Medical Association revised the veterinarian’s oath by adding a few words to signal the true scope of the veterinarian’s mission, vowing to protect not just animal health but also welfare and to aim for not just the relief but the prevention of suffering.
And in December, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians released 51-pages worth of advice for the care of animals in shelters to help these organizations review their standards for animal care, identify areas that need improvement, allocate resources and implement solutions to optimize welfare, minimize euthanasia and prevent suffering.
The guidelines are based on “five freedoms” developed in 1965 in the United Kingdom by a commission looking at welfare concerns in agricultural settings. Now recognized to have broader application across species, the freedoms include the right to freedom from hunger and thirst, discomfort, pain, injury or disease, fear or distress and the freedom to express normal behavior.