The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) just published its new Guidelines for Responsible Pet Ownership (Journal of the AVMA, 2012 Jan 1;240(1):11-12), parting ways with the California VMA’s Golden Rules of Pet Ownership that it had previously endorsed. It’s interesting, and instructive, to compare the two. I’ve rearranged them so the most similar rules are side-by-side. In some cases, rules have either been combined or separated; and some do not seem to have a corresponding rule in the other set.
Both sets of “rules” are promulgated by veterinary associations, but the new AVMA guidelines are far more specific, as well as massively more verbose! They are also far more self-serving; there are many more points that involve–and give considerable authority to–veterinarians. The California rules are relatively general, simple, and innocuous, while AVMA clearly had both its legal and marketing departments involved. CVMA kept their list short, but AVMA evidently thought a lot more rules were needed. A couple of CVMA’s rules are, well, very Californian…such as, “I will respect the living environment.” What does that mean, exactly? It’s a nice sentiment, but how exactly are pet “owners” supposed to accomplish that?
AVMA definitely kept its eye on the money. Its guidelines refer to the necessary “investment,” as well as specifically directing that investment: vaccinations, parasite control, therapeutic health care, and the all-important “veterinarian-client-patient relationship.” But geez… these rules might have the opposite effect: any rational person would think twice about even having a pet, given all the onerous responsibilities and expenses that are so thoroughly spelled out! I wonder how many veterinarians actually comply with all of these rules! (I’m doing fair-to-middling on most of them, except for that vaccination-parasiticide thing; though I must admit that, despite living right next to a canal, my “evacuation kit” is not up to snuff!)
It’s interesting that all these are phrased in the positive: DO THIS. No mention of things you shouldn’t do, like treat your pets cruelly, or surgically mutilate them for fashion or convenience. (Of course, veterinary associations have different ideas about those details than some of us!)
Problematically, both sets of rules consistently and pointedly use terms like “ownership” When Jackson Galaxy and I started Little Big Cat nearly a decade ago, we vowed to use the term “guardian” or “parent” or “caregiver” and avoid the word “owner” whenever possible. “Guardian” (and similar terms) implies a relationship that is more complex, heartfelt, and yes, more responsible, than “owning” a toaster or a sofa or a dog would be. The veterinary profession, as a whole, is highly opposed to using any term but “owner,” due to fear of higher malpractice rates if pets are valued more than a toaster or a sofa (even though these fears have not materialized in the nearly 20-year existence of the guardian movement, which is spearheaded by In Defense of Animals; for more information, please visit their Guardian Campaign page.)
So, I’m really curious…what do you all think about these rules and guidelines? How are you doing with these “requirements”? Would you pass or fail as a “pet owner” under each of these standards? What’s missing here? What’s too much?