The debate over animal sentience has been going strong for years, but many animal health organizations have been hesitant to publicly define their stances on the controversial topic.

That may change now that AAHA has made it clear where the organization stands.

AAHA chose its Board of Directors meeting in July to officially acknowledge its view that animals are feeling, sensing beings capable of sentiency.

By adopting this position statement, AAHA became one of the first United States animal health organizations to take a strong stance on the issue.

The full text of the AAHA position statement on animal sentience reads:

“The American Animal Hospital Association supports the concept of animals as sentient beings. Sentiency is the ability to feel, perceive or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences. Biological science, as well as common sense, supports the fact that the animals that share our lives are feeling, sensing beings that deserve thoughtful, high-quality care. The care that is offered should provide for the animal’s physical and behavioral welfare and strive to minimize pain, distress, and suffering for the animal.”

The move by AAHA is parallel to a larger, worldwide movement aiming to protect animal welfare and promote animal sentience. More than 220 animal welfare groups have signed the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare, developed and proposed to the United Nations by the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

The reason for taking a strong stance on animal sentience came down to ensuring high-quality care for companion animals, according to Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP, executive director and chief executive officer of AAHA.

“Given that animals have subjective experiences and feelings, we as veterinarians have an ethical obligation to take those considerations into account when caring for them,” Cavanaugh said. “This strengthens our commitment to providing quality, empathetic care to the companion animals we see.”

Be sure to read next week’s NEWStat newsletter for additional coverage of the animal sentience position statement.

Comments (5) -

Teri Kidd
Teri KiddUnited States
10/18/2012 11:40:00 AM #

That's fantastic!  How ridiculous that this still is a controversial topic that has to be debated.  Anyone who has spent more than five minutes with animals would realize that they are sentient individuals.  The only thing that would prevent someone from acknowledging this fact would be a vested interest, probably financial, in not doing so.  It certainly is not rational, ethical, or science-based to deny sentience in non-human animals.

Congratulations to AAHA for leading the way!

Julie Francis
Julie FrancisUnited States
10/18/2012 12:25:14 PM #

This is great to see.  The concern I have is for large animals since they have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to pain management...as in, they often receive none.  They have the same pain pathways as you or I, yet they often get no analgesia during castration, branding, etc.  Hopefully the situation will change for them one day.

Darren Richards
Darren RichardsUnited States
10/18/2012 3:43:17 PM #

I agree with the position statement but can see many negative consequences resulting from it including:
Legal - determining the worth of an animal whether for a malpractice suit or even a divorce settlement.  Lawyers will be quick to site this position statement in their arguments
Insurance - after the above gets rolling malpractice insurance will more closely resemble our human counterparts which will then increase the costs associated with our profession which will make its way into our prices which will be passed on to our clients, also mirroring the human medical field.  

Diane Sandoval
Diane SandovalUnited States
10/25/2012 8:37:14 AM #

I'm a NY State Licensed Veterinary Technician and have unfortunately witnessed veterinary professionals mistreat animals. Both purposely and unpurpose. This is a great start because most of  us know one frighteneing event can alter an animals behavior. We have to bring more teachings about animal behavior to anyone working with animals so they can understand that there are force free methods that work and are much safer for pets and themselves. We have to uphold our moral and ethical obligation to pets under our care.

John Sanders
John SandersUnited States
11/1/2012 3:59:05 PM #

This is BS!  Everyone knows that animals are not sentinels or borgs.  They are carbon based life forms, not space aliens!!  AAHA doesn't know nothing.  

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