AAHA position statement classifies animals as sentient beings

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.