Veterinary group recognizes animal welfare as specialty
By Eddy Ball
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) announced Sept. 19 its approval of animal welfare as a certification for veterinary specialists, to be conferred by the American College of Animal Welfare (ACAW). ACAW joins entities in the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia-New Zealand as the only organizations in the world that certify animal welfare specialists.
ACAW is preparing to offer its first credentialing examination, which will be given in July 2013. The new diplomates will join the current group of 27 charter diplomates who gained certification based on their long experience as advocates of animal welfare and work as practitioners in the field.
Among the charter diplomates of the ACAW are Rear Adm. William Stokes, D.V.M., director of the NTP Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM) and NIEHS principal representative on the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM), and the only federal veterinary doctor in the group; Steven Hansen, D.V.M., chief operating officer of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Alternative Toxicological Methods (SACATM); and former NTP pathologist and former SACATM member Daniel Marsman, D.V.M., Ph.D., who currently heads sections on product safety testing and animal welfare at Procter and Gamble.
“With their mission of replacing, reducing, and refining the use of animals in toxicity testing,” Stokes said of the announcement, “NICEATM, SACATM, ICCVAM, and its partners are a natural place for ACAW-certified veterinarians to be working.” Animal welfare is an integral part of veterinary practice, Stokes added, but to become a specialist in the field requires complementary training and experience.
A special skill set for practitioners
“As with all other disciplines within the veterinary profession, there are multiple levels of expertise, and it’s important for the profession to have individuals who are highly trained in the broad aspects of animal welfare and who understand the related science,” said Bonnie Beaver, D.V.M., in an AVMA press release. Beaver is a professor at the Texas A&M University (TAMU) College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, former AVMA president, and founding president of ACAW.
According to Beaver, the scientific study of animal welfare has grown exponentially in the past two decades, causing the field to evolve into a distinct discipline within veterinary medicine. ACAW diplomates will have received advanced training in all aspects of animal welfare science, including ethics, so they can offer the public, general veterinary practitioners, and other stakeholders accurate information and advice.
Much like other specialties, the field of animal welfare comes with its own scientific literature base. The college has identified more than ten peer-reviewed journals that publish animal welfare science exclusively, with an additional 90 plus journals publishing a substantial number of animal welfare-related scientific papers. In addition to the scientific journals, there are a number of ethical journals that devote considerable space to animal welfare concerns. And, there are multiple graduate programs around the world that are currently educating scientists in this field.
ACAW is one of 22 recognized veterinary specialty organizations comprising 40 distinct practice areas. More than 10,600 veterinarians have been awarded diplomate status in one or more of these recognized veterinary specialty organizations by completing rigorous postgraduate training, education, and examination requirements. These board-certified specialists are ready to serve the public, its animals, and the veterinary profession, by providing high quality service in disciplines as varied as internal medicine, surgery, preventive medicine, toxicology, dentistry, behavior, laboratory animal medicine, and pathology.