AAAS symposium—Animal rights: Good or bad for veterinarians?

AAAS symposium—Animal rights: Good or bad for veterinarians?

What's in a name? Replacing the term owner with guardian could do more than raise consciousness—it may seriously restrict pet owners' rights and curtail practitioners' ability to make case-by-case decisions on animal welfare.
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Aug 01, 2006

The welfare of companion animals, which are classified by U.S. law as property, is protected by special legislative measures, including anti-cruelty statutes and pet trust arrangements. While a companion-animal veterinarian's only contractual obligation is to the pet owner, the profession has the additional duty to protect and advocate for the pet's well-being. Hanging in the balance between these two commitments are such ethical issues as convenience euthanasia of healthy animals, feline onychectomy, and canine ear trimming and tail docking.

A current debate sparked by societal concerns about pets' rights focuses on legislative conversion of the term pet owner to pet guardian. Should such a change occur, it would significantly impact the relationship between people and their pets and place an undue burden of moral and fiduciary responsibilities on guardians. Under this new concept of a pet's best interests and rights, such well-accepted practices as in-house or leash confinement, neutering, and animal buying and selling would have to be curtailed or even banned. Furthermore, respect for a pet's right to medical care would obligate a guardian to assume full responsibility, regardless of his or her economic standing.


John Albers, DVM
To prevent such disproportionate contractual obligations, veterinarians should insist on responsible pet ownership vs. guardianship. Responsible ownership allows a pet owner to make informed decisions while providing a pet with food, shelter, veterinary care, love, and respect.

John Albers, DVM
Executive Director, American Animal Hospital Association
12575 W. Bayaud Ave.
Lakewood, CO 80228