HSVMA Policy Statements

The policy statements below outline the HSVMA’s detailed philosophy and rationale for our rules of engagement on the following animal welfare issues.

Adoption of Companion Animals Used in Research

In the U.S., an estimated 134,000 rabbits, 59,000 dogs and 19,000 cats are used annually in research experiments and product testing.  Approximately one-third of these animals are subjected to procedures that cause pain and many of these animals do not receive any treatment to alleviate pain.  At the conclusion of research or product testing, almost all these animals are euthanized to meet the requirements of research protocols or because the institutions would otherwise have to pay for their life-long upkeep. 

An unknown number of research institutions permit, but do not require, that dogs, cats and rabbits used in research be offered for adoption, if it is determined that they pose no threat to the health of other animals or people.  These arrangements may include placement with individuals or with animal shelters and rescue organizations.  In the absence of federal or state legislation requiring placement of healthy animals for adoption, these efforts are voluntary, and most animals are euthanized unnecessarily.

Eleven states have adopted legislation that requires research institutions and product testing facilities to make reasonable efforts to place animals that survive research and that are deemed suitable for adoption, with shelters, rescues, and individuals.

HSVMA supports legislative efforts to require research institutions and product testing facilities in all states to place dogs, cats, rabbits and other suitable companion animals with shelters, rescue groups and individuals for the purposes of adoption following the conclusion of research, unless such placement is determined to be detrimental to the welfare of animals or humans.

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, January 2020


Battery Cages

HSVMA strongly and unequivocally opposes confining egg-laying hens to battery cages, a housing system which denies the birds an adequate amount of space and prevents them from carrying out fundamental natural behaviors. HSVMA affirms the humane duty to provide chickens with the freedom to stretch and flap their wings, stand erect, nest, scratch the ground, preen, perch, and dust-bathe. At present, all of these behaviors are effectively denied to the vast majority of the approximately 270 million egg-laying hens in the United States, who are allotted only 67 square inches (432.3 cm2) or less per bird.

Battery cage conditions result in psychological distress, stereotypic behaviors, and continual severe boredom for the birds. In addition, confinement to battery cages causes painful medical conditions including fatty liver hemorrhagic syndrome, foot disorders, and severe disuse osteoporosis, which contributes to a bone fracture rate of 25-30 percent in egg-laying hens during shackling prior to slaughter.

HSVMA recognizes that problems can occur in virtually any type of hen housing system, as proper management practices are necessary for maintaining animal welfare standards. However, confinement to battery cages unavoidably and unacceptably infringes on the welfare of egg-laying hens in a way that cannot be corrected merely by changing management practices.

Given the severity and magnitude of animal welfare infringements caused by battery cages, the HSVMA unreservedly supports eliminating this form of confinement. To meet humane standards, any alternative hen housing system must ensure the above minimal behavioral freedoms.

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, November 2014
Updated July 15, 2015

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Brachycephalic Dogs 

HSVMA advocates that the veterinary profession should take a proactive role to improve the welfare of brachycephalic dogs. Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) is a consequence of selective inbreeding favoring shortened noses and skulls, which results in dyspnea, stertor, stridor, exercise and heat intolerance, and increased anesthetic risk. Breeds most affected by BOAS are Pugs, Boston Terriers and French Bulldogs. It is common for many brachycephalic dogs to require soft tissue surgery of their airways in order to breathe without difficulty, and C-sections to give birth. Dogs with the most severe forms of brachycephaly have significantly shorter lifespans compared to those of other breeds, and death in brachycephalic dogs is significantly more likely to be related to upper respiratory airway disease.

Welfare concerns associated with brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome include the increasing popularity and number of affected dogs, the detrimental and lifelong impacts of their conformation, and the emotional and financial burdens placed on the human families of brachycephalic dogs. The HSVMA encourages veterinarians to improve the health and welfare of brachycephalic dogs by:

  • Providing pre-purchase/pre-adoption consultations with clients considering acquiring a brachycephalic dog
  • Advising against breeding any dog suffering from symptoms of BOAS
  • Learning about exercise tolerance tests as part of annual examinations to improve diagnostic sensitivity
  • Raising awareness amongst clients of the role of obesity in worsening BOAS symptoms
  • Educating clients that respiratory sounds such as snorting and snoring are not normal, but rather are clinical signs of airway obstruction and compromised breathing
  • Collaborating with breed clubs to develop and implement plans to improve the health of dogs with brachycephalic conformation
  • Reporting conformation-altering surgeries and C-sections in American Kennel Club (AKC) registered dogs to the AKC
  • Developing a practice strategy to clearly and consistently disclose the health problems experienced by dogs with brachycephalic conformation through all practice communication channels
  • Working to counter the dramatic increase in demand for brachycephalic breeds. For example, the profession can educate major retailers and organizations that use brachycephalic breeds in their advertising about the health problems endemic in these breeds and encourage them to feature healthier breeds or mixed breed dogs instead.

For more information, please see the HSVMA Fact Sheet and additional resources on this issue here.

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, June 2018

Client Financial Preparedness and the Cost of Veterinary Care

The HSVMA believes veterinarians have an ethical responsibility to increase access to veterinary care for all companion animals and acknowledges client education regarding financial preparedness as crucial to fulfilling this duty. HSVMA encourages veterinarians to include this topic as part of preventative health care education with their clients. This may help reduce the incidence of economic limitations impacting patient care and economic euthanasia. Furthermore, financial preparation of clients may improve patient welfare and professional career satisfaction. 

HSVMA encourages veterinary professionals to discuss the following topics with clients to help ensure they are financially prepared for providing a lifetime of care for their pet:

  • The costs generally associated with caring for a pet, such as food, routine and emergency veterinary care, toys, treats, training, and boarding/pet-sitting. Most clients are not aware that a single severe injury or illness can result in up to $10,000 or more in veterinary expenses.
  • Appropriate preventative care is usually more cost-effective than waiting for an illness to arise.
  • Breed-related risks which carry financial implications such as surgery for brachycephalic airway disease, ocular problems, C-sections, etc.
  • The costs associated with feeding and providing veterinary care for giant breed dogs is often considerably higher than for smaller dogs.
  • The potential benefits of pet health insurance, as well as limitations. Clients should be aware that, in most cases, they must pay veterinary costs up front and are later reimbursed by their insurance carrier. Veterinarians are encouraged to provide clients with tools for comparing different insurance options, such as www.petinsurancereview.com.
  • How to prepare for costly emergency care. In addition to pet insurance, clients can consider reserving a credit card and/or a savings account strictly for veterinary care. It is important to ensure that this method of payment can be immediately accessed in the event of an emergency.
  • Wellness plans as an option to save money and improve pet health in the long run by encouraging prevention and early detection of medical problems
  • Financing options such as CareCredit® or Scratchpay® for unexpected veterinary expenses.
  • In-house payment plans or financial assistance programs for families in need if available at the practice.
  • Online fund-raising platforms (e.g., GoFundMe.comWaggle.org) to help defray costs of unexpected veterinary expenses.
  • Low-cost or non-profit veterinary clinics available in your area, for example, some states like Rhode Island (Pets in Need Clinic) and Massachusetts (Tufts at Tech) have low-cost clinics that cater specifically to income-qualifying families,
  • Databases of state and national assistance funds may be helpful to clients in need, for example, resources.bestfriends.org/article/financial-aid-pets and humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/trouble_affording_pet.html

Cosmetic and Convenience Procedures in Companion Animals

HSVMA opposes surgical procedures performed on a companion animal solely for the cosmetic preference or convenience of the caregiver. Examples of such procedures include ear cropping and tail docking in dogs; devocalization of dogs and cats; and declawing or tendonectomy of cats.  Exceptions to this position would be the rare instances in which such surgeries are performed for therapeutic purposes. HSVMA urges canine breed clubs to eliminate ear cropping and tail docking from dog breed standards.

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, November 2010

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Egg Industry Practices

HSVMA opposes several common egg industry practices on the grounds that they violate basic standards of animal welfare:

  • Approximately 270 million male chicks are killed annually via maceration in high-speed grinders, suffocation with carbon dioxide, and other inhumane methods, as they would not be sufficiently profitable for egg or meat-production.
  • Debeaking, or partial beak amputation, is commonly used to decrease the feather-pecking and cannibalism that result from over-crowding and intensive confinement. This painful procedure impedes the normal function of the beak in feeling, picking up, and manipulating objects and often causes chronic neuroma-associated pain.
  • Selecting hens for production of large sizes and quantities of eggs increases hens’ risk of painful cloacal prolapse, salpingitis, oviduct tumors, and osteoporosis.
  • In order to boost egg production, most hens are subjected to “forced molting,” which involves causing drastic weight loss and depriving hens of light. Each year, producers also partially or completely starve tens of millions of hens for up to 14 days with variable periods of water deprivation.
  • Hens endure a lifetime of extreme confinement and poor welfare in battery cages.
  • Capturing and transporting hens leads to severe suffering via broken bones, dislocated joints, exposure to extreme temperatures, over-crowding, and food and water deprivation.
  • Slaughterhouse practices routinely lead to extreme animal suffering, as when incomplete stunning results in fully conscious hens being drowned in scalding water.1

HSVMA affirms the humane duty to ensure the physical and psychological welfare of egg-laying hens. In addition to minimizing pain and distress and abolishing the above practices, producers should provide hens with opportunities for species-typical social behavior, mental stimulation, and access to the outdoors.


  1. Minnesota Hen Slaughter Exposé: Birds Abused, Scalded Alive Daily; Investigation Is First in Nation of “Spent” Egg-Laying Hen Slaughter Plant. The Humane Society of the United States. http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2015/01/minnesota-hen-investigation010514.html. Accessed June 8, 2015.

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, July 2015

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The Methods of Euthanasia of Animals in Shelters

The HSVMA recognizes the unfortunate necessity for euthanasia of animals in shelters under certain circumstances. When euthanasia is performed, the HSVMA believes only trained and certified personnel should perform it and in the most humane manner possible. The injection of sodium pentobarbital (or equivalent FDA-approved euthanasia drug) is the only acceptable method of euthanasia for animals in shelters, as it is safer for shelter personnel, induces rapid unconsciousness and death, while causing the least amount of stress to the animal. The preferred routes of administration are intravenous or intraperitoneal. Intracardiac injections should only be performed on anesthetized or unconscious animals. It is imperative that drugs that produce at least a light plane of sedation or anesthesia be used prior to the euthanasia of dangerous, fractious, or otherwise difficult to handle animals to minimize their stress and fear and ensure safety of shelter personnel. In addition, euthanasia should not be performed in the presence of live animals, and it is essential that proper steps be taken by trained personnel to verify death has occurred.

Humane euthanasia should provide the animal with a rapid death free of pain, fear, stress, or apprehension while protecting the safety of shelter personnel. Euthanasia by injection, performed by skilled and compassionate personnel, is the only method that consistently meets these criteria for euthanasia of animals in the shelter setting.


Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, January 2015

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Free-Roaming, Abandoned and Feral Cats, and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

HSVMA supports humane, non-lethal solutions to address concerns associated with free-roaming, abandoned and feral cats. These concerns include the number of cats, their quality of life and their potential negative impact on wildlife, the environment, and public health. HSVMA advocates community-based Trap-Neuter-Return programs with ongoing responsible management as the most viable, long-term approach available at this time to reduce feral cat populations. The location of feral cat colonies is an extremely important issue and reinforces the need for a community-based approach to ensure that colonies are managed so that impacts on wildlife are minimized. HSVMA advocates indoor-only environments for companion cats and sterilization of all cats to help address the root cause of the feral cat overpopulation problem.

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, February 2011

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Gestation Crates

HSVMA opposes the practice of confining gestating sows in individual crates only slightly larger than the animals themselves, commonly known as gestation crates. These crates curtail their movement so severely that the pregnant sows are unable to even turn around, which prevents the expression of normal patterns of behavior, and the lack of bedding exacerbates their extreme discomfort. Furthermore, an extensive body of scientific evidence confirms that gestation crates result in poor porcine health and welfare. Housing intelligent, sentient beings for months at a time in this manner is inhumane and constitutes cruelty.

As an alternative, HSVMA promotes well-managed group housing systems for gestating sows, in which sows are grouped based on size and temperament.

For more detailed information on gestation crates, refer to the HSVMA Veterinary Report on Gestation Crates .

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, December 2012

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Horse Slaughter and Unwanted Horses

HSVMA is opposed to the commercial slaughter of horses and other equids. Each year, tens of thousands of American horses including riding horses, children’s ponies, carriage horses, and race horses, among others, are inhumanely transported to be slaughtered for overseas consumption. The majority are young, healthy animals who could have gone on to lead productive lives.

Horse slaughter is not humane euthanasia. Horses are generally transported long distances in crowded trailers, traveling for many hours or even days on end without rest, food or water. They often arrive exhausted, dehydrated, severely injured or even dead – the result of fights or falls sustained during their journey. They panic in the kill box, making them difficult to stun accurately – and are sometimes conscious while they are suspended by a back leg, bled out, and dismembered.

HSVMA promotes a commitment to lifetime care and responsible breeding practices as an essential principle of equine stewardship. In the unfortunate cases in which people are unable to continue to care for their horse, HSVMA promotes humane options including careful re-homing, relinquishment to a sanctuary or rescue facility or, when necessary, humane euthanasia by a trained professional.

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, October 2011

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Large-Scale Commercial Dog Breeding Facilities (Puppy Mills)

HSVMA advocates humane standards, common-sense limits and adequate regulatory oversight for large-scale commercial dog breeding facilities, also known as ‘puppy mills.’

Puppy mill dogs are generally treated as factory-farmed livestock by kennel operators striving to maximize profits at the expense of the health and welfare of their dogs.  In these operations, the dogs are confined to small cages, endure continuous breeding, receive minimal to no veterinary care, endure poor husbandry and are deprived of human companionship, exercise and socialization. Careless breeding practices at puppy mills contribute to inherited conditions that negatively impact the health of the puppies and ultimately generations of purebred dogs. Furthermore, overbreeding contributes to the nationwide pet overpopulation problem and to the euthanasia of more than a million perfectly healthy, but unwanted, dogs each year.

For more detailed information on puppy mills, refer to the HSVMA Veterinary Report on Puppy Mills .

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, February 2011

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Non-Therapeutic Use of Antibiotics in Farm Animals

The HSVMA supports federal legislation that would phase out the routine non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animals. Antibiotic overuse is a common practice in animal agriculture, with the drugs routinely added to animal feed for growth promotion and to compensate for crowded, stressful and unsanitary conditions on industrial farms. Antibiotics are readily available over the counter for farm use and often there is no veterinary prescription or oversight of their application.

Profligate use of these drugs threatens to ruin the effectiveness of antibiotics for treating sick animals and people and the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a looming health challenge. We join with the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association and more than 150 other human health organizations in supporting efforts to restrict such non-judicious uses of antibiotics in order to protect animal and human health.

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, October 2011

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Purebred Dog and Cat Breeding Practices

The HSVMA advocates that dog and cat breeders develop and adhere to strict ethical and humane practices in conducting their business. Breeding animals for exaggerated physical characteristics, particularly when it compromises overall health, is irresponsible. Breeders should place the long-term health and welfare of their breeding animals and offspring above their efforts to win shows and garner fees.

The HSVMA urges the American Kennel Club (AKC) and other breed clubs to modify their standards to include equal or greater emphasis on breed health, welfare and temperament than on purely physical breed attributes.

Competitive showing has spawned breeding practices based on the concept that successful dogs and cats must closely conform to established ‘breed standards’ by possessing specific, frequently arbitrary, physical attributes, often at the expense of their health, welfare or temperament. This has compromised the quality of life of many purebred animals because purposely-bred exaggerated phenotypic features predispose them to certain medical conditions, interfere with normal behaviors, and, in many cases, diminishes the quality and/or duration of their lives.

Combined with an emphasis on pedigree that often engenders deliberate inbreeding of closely-related animals, these practices have decreased genetic diversity within breeds and have amplified the inevitable unintended negative consequences of artificial genetic manipulation—such as the incidence of heritable and congenital disorders—in purebred dogs and cats.

Commercial and hobby breeding have an immense impact on the very serious problem of pet overpopulation. Millions of dogs and cats are killed each year in U.S. shelters because there are simply too many animals for the number of homes available, and approximately 25-30% of these animals are purebreds. HSVMA encourages breeders to be a part of the solution of companion animal overpopulation by conscientiously limiting the numbers of litters they produce.

HSVMA supports and promotes adoption of hybrid (i.e. mixed-breed) dogs and cats and, in cases where particular breed characteristics are preferred, adoption of purebreds from shelters and breed rescue organizations.

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, April 22, 2012

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Spay and Neuter Surgeries

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association supports elective surgical sterilization—spaying (females) and neutering (males)—of dogs and cats. It remains the most reliable and effective means of preventing the unwanted reproduction of dogs and cats, decreasing the pet overpopulation problem, and reducing animal shelter euthanasia rates. Equally as important are the individual health benefits of sterilization, including reduced risk of mammary neoplasia, benign prostatic hypertrophy, and prostatitis, as well as prevention of pyometra and testicular cancer, and behavioral benefits, like decreasing objectionable behaviors such as urine marking, fighting, and roaming.

The HSVMA encourages the sterilization of kittens and puppies prior to puberty, even as young as six to eight weeks of age, as long as weight and health requirements are met. In addition, the HSVMA recommends the spay or neuter surgery be done prior to adoption. Consideration must be given to circumstances that would create a need for an exception on an individual basis.

The HSVMA supports elective surgical sterilization as an overall health and behavioral benefit for most individual animals and for the companion animal population. There is an extensive body of scientific evidence identifying the benefits of surgical sterilization, including early-age sterilization.

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, October 2013

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Use of Horses and Mules for Urban Carriage Rides

The HSVMA recognizes numerous equine health and welfare issues associated with for-hire carriage rides in urban settings. Horses and mules are expected to work in conditions of extreme temperatures and high humidity; heat prostration, collapse and death are reported sequelae. These animals suffer from chronic medical problems that are caused and/or exacerbated by their working conditions. They include respiratory ailments such as heaves, which are worsened by continuous exposure to exhaust fumes, and lameness conditions which are aggravated by long working shifts on concussive and hot asphalt surfaces. Adequate veterinary medical and farrier care is often unavailable due to the absence of equine veterinarians in urban areas. Because of the lack of space in cities, these animals are denied necessities of good welfare and husbandry, such as box stalls large enough for them to lie down, daily turn out to pasture, and essential social interaction with other horses. Finally, both people and equines may suffer serious injuries when horses become “spooked” by vehicular traffic incidents and crowd noise and attempt to flee until they collide with an obstacle, or trip and fall.

For all these reasons, the HSVMA supports ordinances to ban equine carriage rides in urban locations. When a complete ban on urban carriage rides is not attainable, we support enactment and strict enforcement of specific regulations to protect the health, well-being, and safety of equines used by the carriage horse industry and people who avail themselves of carriage rides. At a minimum, regulations should guarantee appropriate husbandry and veterinary medical care, and should ensure that carriages and motor vehicles do not share the same roadway.

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, June 2020

Use of Lead-based Ammunition and Fishing Tackle

HSVMA supports voluntary efforts, policy reforms and legislation that reduce the use of lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle. Eliminating these sources of lead is necessary to safeguard animal, human and environmental health.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly confirms the toxic effects of lead on avian and other wildlife species. The veterinary community has seen the serious effects of lead firsthand, while diagnosing and treating animals suffering from lead poisoning.

HSVMA recognizes this issue is independent of other controversies related to the practices of hunting and fishing. Non-toxic alternatives to lead ammunition and fishing tackle are readily available, perform equally or better than lead counterparts, and the cost of non-lead alternatives are becoming comparable to that of lead products.

HSVMA supports official recognition of this issue as a significant One Health challenge, since lead is toxic to vertebrate physiological systems, and is recognized as a probable human carcinogen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While eliminating lead in ammunition and tackle will not prevent all potential lead exposures, HSVMA maintains that since lead is a potent toxin that bioaccumulates, every reasonable step should be taken to reduce the lead exposures of both people and animals.

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, December 2015

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The Veterinarian's Role in Reporting Animal Cruelty

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association urges all veterinarians to report suspected cases of animal cruelty, whether it be in the form of passive neglect or active, malicious abuse, to the proper officials charged with investigating and prosecuting such incidents. Due to our position and training, veterinarians are likely to encounter such situations professionally and may also be sought as experts by law officials seeking to identify whether a crime has been committed. Our medical training confers on us the knowledge and authority to identify maltreatment and suffering in animals, whether owned or stray, companion or agricultural, domestic or wild, and to make such suffering intelligible in a court of law if requested. Thus, it is incumbent upon us to familiarize ourselves with our state’s anti-cruelty laws, to report such abuse and/or neglect to the proper authorities. If asked by law officers to serve as an expert witness, it is hoped that the veterinarian will assist to the best of his/her abilities.

The veterinarian should use his/her judgment to determine whether the situation is sufficiently grave to warrant the calling of law enforcement officers to investigate and charge the owner with a crime, or whether the animal’s mistreatment is minor enough to permit instructing the owner as to proper care, requesting the owner to correct a list of deficiencies within a given time frame. Failure to do so might then warrant reporting this neglect (abuse) to the authorities.

In addition, veterinarians should promote the passage of laws in each state that mandate the reporting of animal cruelty by veterinarians when observed or suspected, while also promoting legislation that protects veterinarians from civil, criminal, or professional liability when making such a claim in good faith. If a particular state lacks adequate animal protection laws, then it is hoped that our profession would be a significant voice to assist in the drafting of effective anti-cruelty legislation or to amend existing deficient laws.

Since the connection between a criminal’s initial animal cruelty and his/her future violence directed against humans is now well established, veterinarians have the opportunity to make their communities safer by assisting law enforcement officials in the reporting and prosecution of animal cases, thereby identifying possible future perpetrators of violent crimes. As a corollary to this, it is also critically important for the veterinarian to participate in “cross reporting”, i.e. to report obvious human abuse and neglect to the proper authorities when seen or suspected in the investigation of an animal cruelty case. The HSVMA hopes to see more education available, both in formal veterinary school curricula and in continuing education, for our colleagues in the field of recognizing, documenting, and reporting animal cruelty.

Approved by the HSVMA Board of Directors, October 2011

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