Animal Welfare

Animal Welfare

By Mark Hale DVM

Bolivar, MO

 

            I am sure most of you have heard about the tragic circumstances recently discovered for some children and a large group of animals near Pleasant Hope. I do not know any specific details, but the descriptions given by those involved are sickening. Occurrences such as this bring up the issue of animal welfare and how we can ensure that circumstances like this are prevented as much as possible.

            Animal welfare, as defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association, "is the ethical responsibility of ensuring animal well-being. Animal well-being is the condition in which animals experience good health, are able to effectively cope with their environment, and are able to express a diversity of species-typical behaviors." Protecting an animal's welfare means providing for its physical and mental needs. To be clear, "animal rights" and "animal welfare" is not the same thing.

            There are numerous perspectives on animal welfare that are influenced by a person's values and experiences. Growing up on a farm and working with livestock for several years probably gives me a different perspective on animal welfare than, for instance, a person from New York City. This does not, however, mean that we should not agree that all animals should be treated with respect and dignity throughout their lives. Providing the essentials of water, food, proper handling, health care, and the appropriate environment for their care and use are the responsibility of any animal owner.

            At this time there are various legislative acts concerning animal health/welfare issues in different areas of the country. Some issues concern mandatory spay/neuter of dogs and cats, banning of feline declawing, breeder and kennel licensing or restrictions, and the fighting of dogs.  One of the hottest topics of animal legislation at this time is about the legality of horse slaughter in the US. Horse owners have formed a very emotional bond with the equine species and the thought of their slaughter to them is ghastly. However, by not allowing the slaughter of horses there has quickly become an overabundance of horses, unsuitable for their intended use, that has no one to provide care for them. The higher cost of hay and grain compounds the problem as less people can afford to keep these nonproductive equines. Being a horse owner and enthusiast, but also being a realist, I can see both sides of this debate. The elusive answer to this complicated problem will be sought after for some time. 

            For further information on this subject you can search www.avma.org, www.usda.gov, or simply Google a specific topic. Please remember to spay and neuter your pets. Pet overpopulation is a sad and overwhelming problem in this area. Shelters and volunteers devote countless hours to caring for and placing these animals. Stray and feral cats and dogs do not receive the good homes and care they need due to the overabundance of them. Spay/neuter is the best way to help with the problem.