Editor's Note: DVM Newsmagazine asked six thought-leaders to talk about five of the most pressing issues facing the veterinary profession at CVC East in Baltimore. During the succeeding months, each of the issues introduced at the first DVM Newsmaker's Summit will be presented for publication. This month, the panel takes on animal welfare and veterinary medicine's important role. Dr. Bonnie Beaver introduced the issue of animal welfare.
It is a positive step for the profession, for animals, and for society that veterinary medicine has embraced responsibility for preventing cruelty to animals. But we also need to attend to a more subtle and less well understood form of severe cruelty: the chronic, large-scale neglect that occurs with animal hoarding.
Undoubtedly, the major social issues confronting veterinary medicine today revolve around animal welfare--farm animal welfare; the legal status of animals, including the concept of guardianship; and the efficacy of alternative medicine modalities.
Societal concerns about animal welfare have led to changes in the philosophy and practice of laboratory-animal medicine that are advantageous to research animals as well as to laboratory-animal veterinarians.
One yellow tabby named Darwin will not soon be forgotten by anyone who knows his story. In April 2004, this 9-lb cat was presented DOA to Brooklyn, N.Y., emergency veterinarian Brett Levitzke. Dr. Levitzke knew immediately that Darwin had died as a result of trauma. "I took the woman who brought Darwin in aside and asked her what had happened," he says. "She said her daughter's fiancé had beaten the cat. I told her that I take this very seriously and that I would get law enforcement involved. She said, 'OK, I want this guy prosecuted.'"
The symposium Veterinary Ethics: Controversies, Challenges, and Opportunities, convened at the 2006 American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in February, considered the diverse ethical concerns that arise from the competing and potentially conflicting interests that vie for the veterinarian's attention.