Position Statements and Endorsements

The American Animal Hospital Association is considered a leader in the veterinary industry. As such, veterinary professionals and the industry rely upon our opinions and stances on topics relating to companion animal health and welfare.

Person about to start writing on a sheet of paper; next to an open laptop with stethoscope laying on top.

The AAHA Board of Directors surveys current animal health issues and publishes position statements to guide veterinary professionals and the veterinary industry.

Often, other organizations publish position statements that AAHA agrees with. Rather than reinvent that position, the association endorses what the other organizations have done.

AAHA position statements are reviewed and updated by the AAHA Board of Directors to ensure they remain consistent with the most current research and available data.

AAHA Position Statements

Position statement for analgesics

Pain is a complex experience with physiologic and emotional consequences that can evoke a serious negative impact on animal health and welfare.

Due to both ethical and medical imperatives, and consistent with the Veterinarian’s Oath, the American Animal Hospital Association asserts that in all situations pain must be recognized and assessed, and strategies must be undertaken to predict and effectively prevent, relieve, or otherwise manage pain.

The potential for pain because of injury, illness, surgery, procedures, and diagnostic testing must always be considered. Each patient is entitled to a well-formulated plan that includes anticipation, prevention, early intervention, and adjustment according to follow-up assessments and evaluation regarding response to therapy. These plans should be evidence based insofar as possible and otherwise be based on a consensus of expert opinion.

A multimodal approach is preferred, including both pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatment modalities.

A comprehensive discussion including pain assessment and utilizing an integrated, multimodal approach to pain management can be found in the 2022 AAHA Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors October 1993. Revised October 2009 and February 2017. Last reviewed September 2022.


2022 AAHA Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats

AAHA Pain Management Guidelines Certificate

Position statement for animal abuse reporting

Veterinary professionals are likely to encounter many forms of animal abuse, ranging from minor neglect to malicious harm.

The American Animal Hospital Association supports the reporting of suspicions of animal abuse to the appropriate authorities. The association encourages the adoption of laws mandating veterinary professionals to report suspicions of animal abuse and providing immunity from legal liability when filing such reports in good faith. Veterinary professionals should be familiar with animal cruelty laws and their veterinary practice act, including any mandatory reporting requirements.

Studies have shown there is a link between animal abuse and other forms of violence, including child, spousal, and elder abuse. Reporting suspicions of animal abuse is important as it will trigger an investigation that may ultimately protect both animals and humans. It upholds the veterinary oath to prevent animal suffering and promote public health.

Veterinarians should seek education about animal cruelty and the profession should provide training on the recognition, documentation, and reporting of animal abuse and the development of forensic models. Collaboration with animal and human welfare groups, law enforcement, and other professionals within communities is crucial to improve response and reduce the incidence of animal abuse.

Veterinarians are referred to the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association for information and resources on the signs, recognition, and reporting of animal abuse.

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors November 1995. Revised October 2009. Last revised November 2015.

Position statement for animal identification and microchipping

Animals with identification are more likely to be reunited with owners than those without identification.

The American Animal Hospital Association recommends the permanent identification of dogs and cats using microchips that conform to the International Standards Organization (ISO) standard of technology.

Microchip devices/radio frequency identification devices (RFID)

To maximize the potential of microchip technology in identifying and reuniting pets with owners, AAHA recommends the following:

  • Implantation and initial registration of microchips only be carried out by veterinarians or under the supervision of a veterinarian
  • Veterinarians use the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s standardized implantation sites
  • Details of all microchipped animals are maintained in a central database(s) that can be accessed 24/7 by a single, well-publicized phone and internet portal

AAHA urges veterinary professionals, animal shelters, and humane societies to use microchips that are scannable, traceable, and backed by accessible and reliable microchip registries. A registry’s participation with the AAHA Pet Microchip Lookup tool helps to increase the traceability of the microchips they produce.

Additionally, AAHA strongly encourages pet owners to:

  • Confirm the accessibility and reliability of the registry that is associated with a microchip prior to consenting to implantation
  • Keep all contact information associated with their pet’s microchip up to date so that they can be contacted if their lost pet is found
  • Have their pet scanned annually to ensure proper function and location of the chip
  • Use collar identification tags with current owner contact information on all dogs and cats

Pet owners should be aware that there are different frequencies of microchips in the marketplace and not all scanners are 100% effective in detecting all microchips. Microchips are therefore not fail-safe. In the case of a lost pet, AAHA recommends that all lost-animal search strategies be considered (including, but not limited to, searching for your pet, hanging lost-pet ads, posting lost-pet ads online, including on social media, and checking animal shelters daily).

AAHA recognizes the unique advantages that microchips provide. However, there are issues that currently compromise the effective use of this technology. AAHA urges the microchip industry to address these concerns and to work toward a global system of animal identification that maximizes successful animal recovery by:

  • Adopting only ISO standards for microchips and scanners
  • Providing veterinarians, humane societies, and shelters with a true universal scanner capable of identifying all microchips
  • Providing supporting databases with 24/7 accessibility and response
  • Maintaining databases with accurate, secure (in the event of bankruptcy or natural disaster), and up-to-date information that allows for ease of registration and contact information updating
  • Providing traceback capability, ensuring a specific microchip number can be traced from its source of production to the animal who received it
  • Creating an international integrated database that facilitates the identification of every microchipped pet
  • Promoting proper use of the technology by providing detailed instructions regarding correct scanning methods and implantation techniques, including use of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s standardized implantation sites

Veterinarians practicing in Canada are advised to use microchip products that have been successfully reviewed by the National Companion Animal Coalition (NCAC) and appear on the NCAC list of recognized products.

Find recognized RFID products.

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors October 1993. Revised November 1994, October 2000 and October 2009. Last revised November 2015. Last reviewed September 2022.

Position statement for animal welfare

The American Animal Hospital Association recognizes that the veterinary profession is responsible for advocating and providing leadership for measures that respect and enhance the quality of life of animals.

AAHA supports excellence in animal care by talking with other concerned groups to develop positive actions that create, encourage, or mandate humane animal care and measures that enhance the respect for and quality of life of animals.

The concept of animal welfare is founded on the premise that humans have an ethical and moral obligation to act humanely toward animals in a manner that builds the bond between them. Therefore, animal welfare is a human responsibility requiring active attention to all aspects of animal health and wellbeing, including responsible husbandry, transport, and care, as well as humane housing, handling and, when necessary, euthanasia.

Consideration should be given to animals’ emotional as well as physical health and wellbeing as well as their ability to express behaviors that are considered normal for the species.

There may often be ethical and moral evaluations when resolving issues related to animal welfare. When controversy exists, or in the absence of evidence-based science, decisions should be made that support animal welfare and wellbeing.

Cats and dogs are sentient beings that have “the ability to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively” and are not only capable of feeling pain and distress, but are also able to experience positive emotional states such as pleasure or comfort, and conversely negative emotions such as anxiety and fear” according to AAHA’s statement on Sentience, which states that it’s imperative for veterinarians and caregivers to maintain a strong focus on animal welfare.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) recommends that veterinarians “should be the leading advocates for the welfare of all animals, recognizing the key contribution that animals make to human society through food production, companionship, biomedical research, and education” (OIE, 2012). Additionally, the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), together with the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) declare that “Veterinarians are, and must continually strive to be, the leading advocates for the good welfare of animals in a continually evolving society” (AVMA, 2014).

Additionally, veterinarians have a role in safeguarding human welfare by recognizing animal abuse and neglect, and its link with human abuse. WSAVA Animal Welfare Guidelines and One Health refer to the intricate relationship between the health of humans, the health of animals, and the health of the environment. When there is a zoonotic disease that instills fear in people, such as rabies or COVID-19, society sometimes has a knee-jerk reaction: Thoughts can quickly turn to euthanasia, which sometimes can occur in very inhumane ways. New research by World Animal Protection states that poor animal welfare practices in the trade and farming of wild animals and livestock provides the perfect breeding ground for viruses to mutate and spread. If animal welfare laws aren’t improved, we face the risk of disease outbreaks becoming more frequent.

It is well recognized that poor states of animal welfare also exist where there are poor states of human welfare, as found in countries or regions with emerging economies. Seventy-five percent of emerging infectious diseases (e.g., Ebola, HIV, SARS, COVID-19) have an animal origin according to the Center for Disease Control.

One Health issues can result in poor animal welfare, and the reverse is also true: Poor animal welfare can result in One Health issues.

David Benatar, professor of philosophy and director of the Bioethics Center at the University of Cape Town, says in his most recent book, ”The Human Predicament: A Candid Guide to Life’s Biggest Questions”:

“. . . those who think that this is a Chinese problem rather than a human one should think again. There is no shortage of zoonoses that have emerged from human maltreatment of animals. The most likely origin of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), for example, is SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus), and the most likely way in which it crossed the species barrier is through blood of a nonhuman primate butchered for human consumption. In the future, we should fully expect our maltreatment of animals to wreak havoc on our own species.”

Solutions to One Health should encompass good welfare. According to the World Health Organization, “euthanasia of dogs has not been shown to make any difference in the epidemiology of rabies” (rabies elimination in South-East Asia, WHO project ICP BCT 001, 2005).


Behavior Guidelines and Protocols 

  • 2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines
  • AAHA’s Model Behavior Management Protocol

Condition Score Charts  



Forensic Forms 

Handling & Restraint  

Mobile Apps

Nursing Care 



Veterinary Oath

WSAVA Veterinary Oath

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors March 1993. Revised October 2009. Last revised June 2021

Position statement for animals in education and research

The American Animal Hospital Association supports responsible and judicious use of animals in postsecondary education and scientific research only when the benefits are clear and only when it can be justified scientifically, ethically and morally. We also believe that veterinarians are an essential part of all programs involving the care and use of animals in research.

AAHA recognizes the importance and benefits of the use of animals in research with the goal of improving the health of humans and animals. We strongly support the replacement of animals used in research and education, when possible, by using nonanimal systems such as computer models and biochemical- or cell-based systems. We encourage the refinement of procedures and housing that can reduce the number of animals needed while minimizing pain, distress, and discomfort.

Whenever appropriate, consideration should be given to finding homes for these animals.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “Alternatives to Animal Testing.
American Veterinary Medical Association. “Use of Animals in Research, Testing, and Education.”
Institute for Laboratory Animal Research. “Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.”

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors November 1994. Last revised June 2018. 

Position statement for animals in events

The American Animal Hospital Association encourages humane treatment of animal used in spectator, sporting, and exhibition events in accordance with existing federal, state, provincial, and local animal protection laws. Animals should be properly cared for between and after sporting and exhibition events, and every attempt should be made to rehome the animal upon retirement.

AAHA encourages all organizations involved with animals used in these events to develop and follow guidelines or standards that prevent abuse and ensure humane treatment of these animals. Guidelines should be shared with participants prior to the event. AAHA also supports continued prospective and retrospective studies into sport-animal medicine to prevent and reduce injury for animals used in these events.

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors November 1994. Revised March 2010. Last revised November 2022

Position statement for canine devocalization

The American Animal Hospital Association is opposed to the practice known as debarking, canine devocalization, or vocal cordectomy. Devocalization for inappropriate and excessive vocalization is often ineffective in achieving the desired results, can present risks to the animal, and can deprive canines of the ability to perform a normal behavior. Professional corrective techniques including environmental manipulation, behavioral modification, medical therapy, or a combination of these techniques should be explored.

Exceptions to this statement would be in the rare case of airway obstruction or laryngeal paralysis, which cannot be addressed through other surgical procedures. When deemed medically necessary, devocalization should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians.


Last revised by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors June 2021. 

Position statement for dangerous animal legislation and wild animals as pets

The American Animal Hospital Association supports dangerous animal legislation by state, province, county, and municipal governments that provide guidelines for the management of dangerous animals, provided that legislation does not refer to specific breeds or classes of animals. Domestic animals/pets should only be classified as dangerous after a qualified veterinarian or animal behaviorist has carefully investigated all of the circumstances involving a dangerous incident, such as a dog aggression. It should be noted that while many exotic animals are sometimes classified as pets, some types are inherently dangerous. Inherently dangerous animals should be excluded as being kept as pets (some examples include wild carnivores, some reptiles, some birds, as well as some amphibia and primates.)

The American Animal Hospital Association opposes the keeping of wild animals as pets. Wild animals are those not specifically bred over many generations to adapt to human confinement, company, or control. They are normally found in the wild. When wild animals are kept as pets, the results may often be tragic for the animals and the owners. Lack of knowledge about behavioral traits, social needs, and proper nutrition of wild animals as well as inability to provide an appropriate environment that permits normal behavior often leads to inadvertent abuse and long-term suffering. Furthermore, individuals exposed to captive wild animals may contract transmissible diseases, or suffer injury or death. The capture and transport of wild animals results in the inhumane death or injury of many of the targeted animals as well as non-targeted species. Capture of wildlife intended for domestic use constitutes a significant threat to the world’s various ecosystems.

The American Animal Hospital Association, however, does not oppose the keeping of some exotic pets bred for the legal pet trade as long as they are not inherently dangerous. Exotic pets have many complicated requirements for humane care and it is necessary to establish a relationship with a veterinarian who is able to provide appropriate advice and care for the particular species. Exotic pets consist of species that are not commonly household pets, but have been bred over many generations to adapt to human confinement, company, and control, such as small rodents, some birds and others. It is strongly suggested that pet owners consult with veterinarians prior to the purchase of any pets and this is even more important with respect to exotic species.


Dangerous animal legislation position statement adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors March 1995, October 2009. Last revised June 2020. 

Wild animals as pets position statement adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors, March 1995. Revised June 1996, November 2014. Last revised June 2020. 

Position statement for declawing

The American Animal Hospital Association strongly opposes the elective declawing of domestic cats and believes it is veterinarians’ obligation to provide educational tools and guidance for effective alternative training programs for owners.


Scratching is a normal feline behavior. Cats scratch to:

  • Condition their claws by removing old nail sheaths
  • Stretch and exercise their bodies
  • Communicate visually and through scent left behind from glands on the paws

Veterinarians and cat owners must work together to establish appropriate scratching behaviors by:

  • Providing suitable implements for normal scratching behavior, such as scratching posts (many varieties available), cardboard, wood, carpet, or fabric remnants affixed to stationary objects. Implements should be tall or long enough to allow full stretching and be firmly anchored to provide necessary resistance to scratching.
  • Making appropriate scratching objects more attractive than furniture, which often includes placement near the current object being used and in favorite resting areas.
  • Training cats through positive reinforcement to use appropriate scratching sites by employing treats, catnip, verbal praise, and/or hormone attractants.
  • Trimming cats’ nails often.
  • Considering artificial nail caps.
  • Avoiding rough play; owners should not use their own body parts (feet, hands) as play toys.
  • Using furniture protectors as needed to deter unwanted scratching.

Veterinarians are strongly encouraged to fully educate owners as to why declawing cats is no longer supported. The following points are integral to understanding why declawing is no longer viewed as a reasonable procedure:

  • Declawing is not just removal of the claw; it is an amputation of the third bone in each toe.
  • There are inherent risks and complications with any surgical procedure including, but not limited to anesthetic complications, analgesic side effects, hemorrhage, infection, and pain.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not list declawing as a means of preventing disease in either healthy or immunocompromised individuals.

Recent retrospective studies have found significant increase (three to seven times more likely) of the following in declawed compared to non-declawed cats: chronic back pain, inappropriate urination, biting, and overgrooming.

This statement does not apply to claw removal when medically necessary to treat conditions such as tumors or chronic infections. If declawing is performed, the procedure must follow current best practices for amputation, including multimodal pain control before, during, and after for an appropriate length of time after surgery.


Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors October 2003. Revised October 2009 and August 2015. Last revised June 2021. 

Position statement for ear cropping and tail docking

The American Animal Hospital Association is opposed to ear cropping or tail docking for cosmetic purposes as well as for breed standard purposes. More than 20 breed standards currently call for tail docking or ear cropping, but we recommend the removal of these breed standards and encourage our member veterinarians to discontinue such elective procedures in their hospitals.


Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors March 1993. Revised November 1998 and October 2009. Last revised June 2021. 

Position statement for euthanasia

Veterinary Hospital Approaches to End-of-Life Care

The practice of veterinary medicine has advanced with an increased focus on End-of-Life care for pets. Veterinarians and hospital teams can receive specialized training in hospice and palliative care.  In 2021, AAHA started to recognize the practice of excellent End-of-Life care through accreditation.  Many veterinarians are choosing to specialize in hospice and palliative care to provide comfort care for companion animals experiencing advanced disease or geriatric suffering.  Many hospitals discover they have veterinarian(s) on their team who take special interest and have strengths in End-of-Life care, and they can be utilized at greater levels within the practice.  In addition to providing excellent medical care, End-of-Life care focused veterinarians and hospital teams are also equipped to serve the emotional support needs of pet owners who experience anticipatory and after-death grief.  The euthanasia discussion is difficult for all involved, but the decision to euthanize is held by the pet owner in discussion with the veterinarian.

Humane Method

Humane euthanasia requires expertise in technique and compassion for all parties involved, with the goal of a dignified, anxiety-free, and painless death. Premedication for sedation should be utilized to reduce fear, anxiety, and restraint requirements that can occur with the euthanasia procedure. Injection by sodium pentobarbital is considered the only acceptable method for most companion animals. In accordance with AVMA guidelines for humane euthanasia, an intracardiac injection of pentobarbital may only be performed once a patient experiences a complete loss of consciousness. This is most humanely achieved following the administration of an induction agent and the inability to respond to external stimuli is confirmed.  Pet owners should always be given a choice to remain with their pet through the pre-sedation and euthanasia procedure to provide comfort for the pet as well as the family.

If animals are euthanized in public agencies, such as shelters or the humane society, AAHA recommends that veterinarians are consulted on this procedure so that only trained personnel using proper techniques and drugs are allowed to carry this procedure out. Many of these drugs are controlled and legislative rules need to be followed. If such public agencies do not have access to properly trained personnel or the proper drugs, veterinarians should be contracted to carry out this procedure in a humane way.

Human Toll

Euthanasia is a stressful, emotional aspect of veterinary practice but many veterinary professionals are honored to assist pets and their families at a time of great need. The profession should recognize its impact on clients, veterinarians, and practice team members. Euthanasia-related stress can lead to compassion fatigue. Veterinary practices should acknowledge and manage it with well-drafted protocols, formal education processes, mental health support, and open lines of communication.  All members of a veterinary practice can be prepared to discuss and inform pet owners of the option for euthanasia in a professional and compassionate manner when the veterinarian has determined that euthanasia is appropriate.  When possible, veterinary practices should explore recommending the services of End-of-Life veterinary professionals in the home setting.


The decision to euthanize an animal should not be taken lightly. Veterinarians are encouraged to explore the reasons for the euthanasia decision fully and to discuss viable, realistic alternatives with the owner.  The veterinarian should never be pressured to euthanize if the decision is not supported by their professional and medical expertise.  Additionally, the pet owner should never be pressured to euthanize, but be fully informed on the current level of suffering experienced by the pet and the prognosis in a quality-of-life focused discussion.

Post-Euthanasia Body Care 

Veterinary practices should offer respectful treatment of pets who have been euthanized or have died in their care.  Pet owners should be informed and empowered to choose from available options for body care including cremation, aquamation, and burial.  Pet owners should be provided with a choice for body care including making arrangements on their own in addition to services available through the veterinary hospital.  Should the pet owner choose to leave the hospital with their deceased pet, the hospital should educate the pet owner on post-mortem processes and assist with reasonable accommodations.  Special attention should be given to informing about burial requirements to ensure city, county, and state regulations are followed by the pet owner.  In addition, choices related to memorial products including urns, clay and ink prints, and locks of fur should be made available to the pet owner prior to final arrangements.

Additional Resources:

AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals: 2020 Edition, https://www.avma.org/sites/default/files/2020-02/Guidelines-on-Euthanasia-2020.pdf

2016 AAHA/IAAHPC End-of-Life Care Guidelines, https://www.aaha.org/globalassets/02-guidelines/end-of-life-care/2016_aaha_iaahpc_eolc_guidelines.pdf

WSAVA Animal Welfare Guidelines, https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/WSAVA-Animal-Welfare-Guidelines-2018.pdf (euthanasia page 53).

IAAHPC Animal Hospital and Palliative Care Guidelines: https://iaahpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/IAAHPC-Guidelines-2022.pdf

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors November 1994. Revised October 2003; October 2009. Last revised June 2024. 

Position statement for frequency of veterinary visits

For optimum health and wellness, all pets should have a veterinary examination at least annually. For many pets, more frequent visits may be appropriate. Decisions regarding specific frequency of visits are appropriately made on an individual basis, based on the age, species, breed, health, and environment of the pet. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends that pet owners consult their pet’s veterinarian regarding the appropriate frequency of veterinary visits for their pets. Further details can be found in the AAHA/AVMA Preventive Healthcare Guidelines, the AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines, and the AAFP/AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines.

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors June 2008. Last revised November 2014. Last reviewed November 2022.

Position statement for Good Samaritan law

The American Animal Hospital Association recommends the adoption of a Uniform Good Samaritan Law by all states and provinces, such as the following:

“Any veterinarian or veterinary technician who, in good faith, renders emergency care, without remuneration or expectation of remuneration, to a sick or injured animal shall not be liable for any civil damages resulting from his or her acts or omission, except for such damages as may result from acts of gross negligence or wanton acts or omissions.”

This type of law would serve to encourage veterinarians and veterinary technicians to assist with emergency veterinary care.

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors June 1994. Last revised March 2010. Last reviewed November 2022.

Position statement for humane restraint of animals

The American Animal Hospital Association strongly advocates for the least stressful, most humane methods of animal handling, and encourages veterinary staff education and training in no-fear or stress-free handling programs. Manual restraint and forceful handling of patients increases the risk of injury to both staff and patients.

AAHA advocates for hospital facility design and processes including scheduling, patient flow, patient care/client education SOPs that are designed to consistently minimize patient fear and anxiety associated with veterinary visits. More extreme forms of physical restraint, “such as multiple people holding a patient down….” should be used rarely, only when urgent medical attention is required, and all other less extreme methods of restraint have been exhausted. Such incidents should prompt the veterinary team to work with the client to implement a customized, comprehensive plan to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future. This plan may include long term behavioral modification training/counseling for both pet and client, routine sedative/anxiolytic medication prior to veterinary exams and/or transition to in-home grooming and veterinary services.

Patient-friendly handling improves the quality of healthcare, creates a more positive pet experience, improves client and veterinary team experience, and provides a safer and more efficient work environment. Behavior-centric patient handling techniques should be used along with distractions such as food, toys, or massage.

AAHA encourages practices and owners to train patients and pets to accept a basket muzzle in case it is needed. Practices should consider referrals for additional positive behavior modification training and using anxiolytics (antianxiety medications) and chemical restraint when necessary. The patient’s response to handling, physical health status, and the procedural needs should be considered when determining the need for and the duration of pharmacologic intervention. Sedatives and anxiolytics may be prescribed by the veterinarian and should be given by the pet owner prior to the visit. These types of medications should be considered for patients known to exhibit fear, stress, or aggression.

The human-animal bond is enhanced with a strong focus on no-fear or stress-free handling. A positive clinical environment, which takes into consideration species-specific sensory perception and creates a stress-free atmosphere through proper lighting, noise and odor control, pheromone therapy, surface footing, and appropriate human-animal interactions is an important adjunct to the stress-free veterinary experience.

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors June 1996. Revised October 2009, and June 2017. Last revised November 2022.

Position statement for meeting the cost of pet care

Our pets provide us with fun, companionship, and unconditional love. In return, we incur the responsibilities that go along with pet ownership, including veterinary care. More dogs receive veterinary care than cats, even though cats outnumber dogs as pets. Cats are a very “underserved” species in the veterinary profession, and it is important they receive appropriate healthcare as well.

Providing our pets the preventive healthcare they deserve as well as keeping them in a safe environment significantly reduces the risk of illness and injury. When pets do become sick or injured, today’s veterinary profession is capable of providing all levels of necessary care, from the basics to highly sophisticated diagnostics, procedures, and treatments.

The American Animal Hospital Association strongly recommends that those considering adopting a pet and families who currently share their home with a pet consider the following:

  • Costs for regular preventive healthcare, such as immunizations, parasite control, and dental care
  • Costs for treatment of unexpected illness or injury
  • Costs to provide appropriate daily care, including proper nutrition for the life stage and lifestyle of the pet
  • Breed-specific predisposition to certain conditions, such as:
    • Allergies and dermatologic diseases
    • Ear and/or eye disease
    • Cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune-related diseases
    • Orthopedic conditions

The ability to budget for these pet healthcare costs varies greatly. Some individuals and families simply pay for these things out of the household budget as they arise. Others may need to consider other options for funding proper care for their pets. These options include:

  • Regular contributions to a savings account designated for veterinary care
  • Credit card reserves
  • Medical credit cards
  • Monthly payments to a preventive care plan available through many veterinary hospitals to cover normal preventive care services
  • Pet health insurance to cover unexpected illness or injury

For those considering pet health insurance, AAHA offers the following suggestions:

  • Be sure you understand what the policy covers. Some policies will cover some preventive care, such as vaccinations, but there may be an additional cost for this coverage.
  • Understand the exclusions. Almost all policies exclude pre-existing conditions and some exclude hereditary conditions. Some may exclude certain conditions unique to certain breeds.
  • Almost all policies have a deductible and a copay requirement. Some pay according to a set schedule of “usual and customary fees,” while some pay based on the actual incurred expense. Be sure you understand how expenses will be reimbursed.
  • Ask whether or not the policy allows you to seek care from a veterinarian of your own choosing or whether you must go to a veterinarian that participates in the company’s network of providers. When faced with a pet’s serious illness, most pet owners want to be able to obtain care from their regular veterinarian.
  • Speak with your veterinarian or someone on his or her practice team. While veterinarians do not sell insurance, chances are they have had experience with the policy you are considering and can provide helpful advice.

Pet owners are in control of their pets’ health. Providing appropriate nutrition in a safe, enriched environment is the obligation of the pet owner. Seeking proper veterinary care and developing a strong relationship with the veterinary practice team is also essential in promoting good health and longevity. Providing an appropriate environment, nutrition, and veterinary care is a small payback for the unconditional love, enrichment of our lives, companionship, and joy that our pets give to us.

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors June 2007. Updated June 2013. Reviewed November 2022.




Position statement for pediatric neutering

The American Animal Hospital Association supports the concept of neutering cats and dogs as young as eight weeks of age in order to help reduce the overpopulation issues that can be present in companion animals.

Veterinarians are encouraged to counsel their clients on aspects of responsible breeding, including prevention of unwanted litters, and should make recommendations based on an assessment of each individual patient.

Current scientific literature suggests both positive and negative medical and behavioral outcomes with early versus delayed sterilization in some breeds. This should be part of the discussion veterinarians have with clients when educating them about the risks and benefits of sterilization for pets.

Houlihan, Kendall E. 2017. “A literature review on the welfare implications of gonadectomy of dogs.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association May 15, 2017, volume 250, number 10: 1155–1166.

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors November 1994. Revised March 2010. Last revised January 2018. 

Position statement for pet breeding

The American Animal Hospital Association opposes dog and cat breeding operations that do not support the highest standards of animal care and breeding objectives.

Breeding operations that cause animal suffering due to substandard breeding practices, overcrowding, inappropriate or insufficient human contact, poor sanitation, inadequate shelter, food, or water, and a lack of veterinary oversight should be reported to local animal cruelty protection agencies.

Breeders should ensure their breeding programs strive to eliminate hereditary disorders and minimize genetic defects. Proper early socialization is essential to reduce the risk of behavioral problems later in life such as fear, avoidance, and/or aggression. Breeding establishments should provide puppies and kittens with a socially and physically enriched environment and numerous diverse, positive experiences.

AAHA supports breeders who promote animal health and welfare and who are striving to improve the temperament and functional purpose of the breed.

AAHA also supports current and future legislation and education designed to ensure the humane breeding and care of companion animals in breeding facilities and retail stores. There are many guidelines available that give details on best practices for breeders that should be thoroughly understood by breeding establishments.

The references below represent several guides or protocols for the care of breeding animals and progeny.

Adopted by the AAHA board of directors March 1997. Last revised September 2016.

Position statement for pet food handling

The US Food and Drug Administration has promulgated new regulations concerning pet foods as an additional layer of protection to prevent the introduction of bovine spongiform encephalopathy or “mad cow disease” into the United States.

For practicing veterinarians, the regulations affect only products considered to be “distressed,” which typically include pet foods in damaged containers or those that are past their sell-by or expiration date, or those products considered unfit for sale to clients.

Some veterinarians have donated such “distressed” products to local shelters or humane organizations. To do so now requires that the products be clearly labeled with the precautionary statement, “Do not feed to cattle or other ruminants.” Further, donated items must be accompanied by a letter clarifying the appropriate use and feeding of the products, and the recipient must provide a signed acknowledgment, stating their understanding of the restrictions placed on the products.

Another option for practicing veterinarians is to return “distressed” products to the manufacturer for safe and proper disposal.

The American Animal Hospital Association believes it is the responsibility of all companion animal practices to comply with these requirements or to return these products to the manufacturer. As a profession, we need to do all we can to help ensure a safe food supply for people and animals. We urge all practices to work cooperatively with the pet food industry to ensure that “distressed” products are appropriately handled.

Last reviewed September 2022.

Position statement for pet overpopulation

The American Animal Hospital Association is committed to continuing the search for more acceptable means to managing the population of homeless animals. North America’s animal shelters, both public and private, face the difficult decision to euthanize hundreds of thousands of homeless cats and dogs each year[1]. Veterinarians should work with and support shelter medicine programs to improve the health and wellbeing of animals in shelters, reduce relinquishment, improve overall access to care, promote the adoption of shelter animals, and support spay/neuter and behavior programs.

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors November 1994. Revised March 2010. Last revised June 2024

[1] https://www.shelteranimalscount.org/

Position statement for raw protein diet

Past proponents of raw food diets believed that this was the healthiest food choice for pets. It was also assumed that feeding such a diet would cause no harm to other animals or to humans. There have subsequently been multiple studies showing both these premises to be false. Based on overwhelming scientific evidence, AAHA does not advocate nor endorse feeding pets any raw or dehydrated nonsterilized foods, including treats that are of animal origin.

Homemade raw food diets are unsafe because retail meats for human consumption can be contaminated with pathogens. Studies that have been done on both commercially available and homemade raw protein diets have found a high percentage (30%–50%) of them contaminated with pathogenic organisms, and up to 30% of the dogs fed such diets may shed pathogenic organisms in their stool. Many of the pathogens found in raw protein diets can be transmitted to the human population by contact with the food itself, pet, or environmental surfaces. A disturbing number of these organisms have also been shown to be resistant to multiple antimicrobials.

Raw protein diets are now demonstrated to be a health risk for several groups, including:

  • The pets consuming the diet
  • Other animals in contact with these pets or their feces
  • Human family members
  • The public

People at the highest risk of serious disease from the enteric pathogens found in raw diets include those that are very young, old, or immune compromised. These are the very groups that are the focus of most animal-assisted intervention (AAI) programs. It is especially important that therapy pets involved in AAI not be fed raw protein diets.

AAHA is committed to the human community, the veterinary medical profession, our AAHA hospitals, and the patients we serve in recommending the best known medical practices using evidence-based medicine. We value the relationships between our pets and their families, along with the positive impact that they have on the larger population, such as in AAI programs. Feeding a raw protein diet no longer concerns only each individual pet, but has become a larger community health issue; for this reason, AAHA can no longer support or advocate the feeding of raw protein diets to pets.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners and the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians have both endorsed this statement.


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Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors October 2011. Reviewed October 2022.

Additional Resources:

2021 AAHA Nutrition and Weight Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats


Position statement for sentient beings

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 and common sense support the fact that the animals who 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.”

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors July 2012. Reviewed September 2022

  1. WSAVA Animal Welfare Charter: https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/WSAVA_Animal_Welfare_Charter_Feb-2020.pdf
  2. Animal Sentience RSPCA: https://science.rspca.org.uk/sciencegroup/sentience
Position statement for vaccine issues

No single achievement has had greater impact on the lives and wellbeing of our patients, our clients, and our ability to prevent infectious diseases than the development and ongoing improvements in companion animal vaccines. However, there is growing professional and public awareness that vaccine products are not as benign as first believed, and controversy exists as to duration of immunity and frequency of administration.

Vaccine administration is a medical procedure with which, as with any medical decision, there are benefits as well as attendant risks. These risks and benefits must be weighed and a medical decision regarding administration made. AAHA feels strongly that the veterinarian involved should use his or her clinical skills, knowledge, and judgment along with client input to act in the best interest of the patient.

The report of the AAHA Canine Vaccination Task Force offers veterinarians guidelines for making immunization decisions. A similar report, issued by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the Academy of Feline Medicine and endorsed by AAHA, offers vaccination guidelines for cats. Both sets of guidelines are appropriate and useful as a foundation upon which to make specific recommendations for individual patients.

The vaccination needs of dogs and cats should be assessed at least yearly and, if appropriate, vaccination schedules should be modified on the basis of changes in the patient’s age, health status, home and travel environment, and lifestyle. Vaccinations should be considered just one component of an individualized, comprehensive preventive healthcare plan based on the age, breed, health status, environment (potential exposure to harmful agents), lifestyle (contact with other animals), and travel habits of the dog or cat.

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors November 1998. Revised June 1999; October 2003. Last revised September 2018.  

Position statement for VCPR

The veterinarian-client-patient-relationship (VCPR) is the essential basis for interaction among veterinarians, their clients, and their patients.  It is critical to providing quality veterinary care and vital to animal welfare by allowing a veterinarian to regularly assess a pet’s entire physical status, family environment, and to regularly communicate with the owner. AAHA defines VCPR to require all of the following:

  • The veterinarian has assumed responsibility for making medical judgments regarding the health of the patient and the need for medical treatment, and the client (owner or caretaker) has agreed to comply with the veterinarian’s instructions.
  • The veterinarian has sufficient knowledge of the patient to initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis of its medical condition. This means the veterinarian has physically examined the patient within the past 12 months, or more frequently as dictated by the age of the patient, medical condition or treatment therapy such as with controlled substances.
  • The veterinarian is available for ongoing care of the patient or has arranged for emergency coverage or continuing care and treatment of the animal by an appropriate veterinary professional.
  • The veterinarian maintains complete and legible medical records, including assessment and treatment plan, in such a way that another veterinarian will be able to proceed with the continuity of care and treatment of that patient.
    • Refer to the Medical Records Section of the AAHA Standards of Accreditation for detailed recommendations.
  • In specific situations (e.g., rescue shelters, disaster response, hoarding intervention situations) “patient” may refer to a group of animals and “sufficient knowledge of the patient” means the veterinarian:
    • conducts medically appropriate and timely visits to the facility where the animals are housed,
    • conducts examination of representative patients/animals and review of medical records and laboratory or diagnostic procedure records, and
    • consults with those individuals providing care to the animals regarding ongoing health management programs.

Similar to the position adopted by the AVMA, we believe that Telehealth plays a role in augmenting the VCPR, but only within the context of a previously established physical examination. With the exception of emergency teletriage and poison control services, AAHA, like the AVMA, opposes remote consulting using telemedicine, offered directly to the public when the intent is to diagnose and/or treat a patient in the absence of a VCPR. Notably, we feel that telehealth tools such as video consultation, telephone consultations, text messaging or other online platforms should only be used by a veterinary business to aid in the diagnosis, prescription and formation of treatment plans if the pet has been examined on the physical premises of that veterinary practice or by a mobile practitioner in the pet’s  home within the previous 12 months.

Telemedicine and the VCPR relationship may change in the future with changes in technology but the veterinary profession must respond carefully to protect the integrity and ethics of the VCPR as well as to ensure good animal welfare.


Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors September 2019.  

Position Statement on Euthanasia for Population Control

The American Animal Hospital Association believes that, ideally, no adoptable animal should be euthanized.  AAHA is committed to working collaboratively to reduce the euthanasia of adoptable animals and supports euthanasia only being conducted by qualified and trained personnel using humane drugs, medications and methods in an environment that minimizes patient anxiety and the negative emotional impact on those performing or assisting with the euthanasia.

Unfortunately, the number of homeless animals currently exceeds the number of responsible people willing to adopt them. Veterinarians have an integral role and a responsibility in our society to contribute to the solutions of these overpopulation issues by:

  • Reducing unwanted litters by participating in and offering readily accessible and affordable sterilization programs and educating clients.
  • Reducing relinquishment of companion animals by educating clients on responsible pet ownership and behavior issues and promoting preventive medical care, compatible animal selection, and the benefit of human animal bond
  • Recommending identification of animals with microchips, identification tags, or identification collars to reunite lost animals with their owners, as well as promoting responsible control of animals with licensing, leashing, and confinement to prevent loss, injury, and disease.
  • Working within their communities to find options for homeless adoptable animals and encouraging clients to adopt from and support their local shelters.
  • In challenging circumstances, collaborate with owners to explore all options before euthanasia is considered.
  • Supporting pet-friendly legislation, such as pet-friendly housing, to increase opportunities for pet ownership.



Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Board of Directors June 2024.