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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, and may be detrimental to successful medical and emotional outcomes. Examples of inappropriate physical restraint include: multiple people holding a patient down for a nail trim; complete immobilization during blood collection; scruffing and stretching cats; pinning dogs against walls or behind doors for injection; using catch poles and nets commonly and inappropriately.

Patient friendly handling improves the quality of health care, creates a more positive pet experience, improves client and veterinary team experience, and provides for 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 (anti-anxiety 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. Last revised June 2017.

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