AVMA positions itself on physical restraint

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Following a DVM's animal abuse conviction, the country's largest veterinary group publishes statement on humane restraining methods

Schaumburg, Ill.-The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)recently issued its first position statement on proper physical restraintof animals.

The position was enacted in response to publicized cruelty cases againstveternarians such as the case involving Dr. Howard Baker, of Pella, Iowa.

Baker, who was exonerated of all charges, had his license yanked in July1999 on an animal cruelty conviction. Evidence against him included an undercoveranimal rights operative's testimony that Baker beat patients while restrainingthem.

An appeals court has since cleared the veterinarian, but the incidentalerted the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to public misconceptionson how to handle animals.

Cruelty or restraint?

"This case proves that there are situations where veterinariansface accusations because members of the public do not have a clear understandingof what proper restraint should be," says Dr. Gail Golab, AVMA assistantpublic affairs director and human-animal bond expert. "It's also away of drawing to a veterinarian's attention the appropriate methods forphysical restraint."

For six months, a panel of experts worked to draft the document, whichis just a paragraph in length. But as Golab explains, it was virtually impossibleto divide restraint guidelines among species "because there was somuch in the way of species differences and situational dependence."

As it reads, the position statement justifies restraint for purposesof examination, sample collection, drug administration, therapy and manipulation.It adds that restraint "should protect both the animal and personnelfrom harm" and should be "planned, formulated and communicatedprior to its application."

The proper uses of chemical restraint are not outlined in the positionbut mentioned as a "preferred method" in some situations.

Golab says that while an AVMA position statement on pharmaceutical restraintis desirable, it's also a separate issue.

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