Veterinarians are well recognized by the public (both organizations and individuals) as the experts and leaders in the humane care of animals. The public, and the profession, expect veterinarians to model responsible and appropriate animal handling and restraint in all circumstances. The public trusts veterinarians, and looks to the profession for compassionate care and welfare advice in all animal species.
The promotion and protection of animal health and welfare are encompassed in the fundamental commitments outlined in the Veterinary Oath, and are the foundation of the profession’s ethos. The Oath, provided below, emphasizes elements inherent to a veterinarian’s obligation in the responsible and humane animal handling and restraint:
"As a member of the veterinary medical profession, I solemnly swear that I will use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society.
I will strive to promote animal health and welfare, prevent and relieve animal suffering, protect the health of the public and the environment, and advance comparative medical knowledge.
I will perform my professional duties conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.
I will strive continuously to improve my professional knowledge and competence and to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards for myself and the profession."
Often the challenge with the provision of veterinary care is the public’s emotional reaction to methods of handling and restraint that are humane and necessary to ensure a safe outcome for all involved in the care of the animal. The method of humane handling and restraint of an animal by a veterinarian varies across species, and is influenced by a diverse number of factors and circumstances. Regardless of context, and in addition to the Veterinary Oath, a veterinarian should consider the Five Freedoms2, first described by the Farm Animal Welfare Council of the UK as a contemporary and internationally accepted approach to the care and handling of all animals.
Handling: The manner of treating or dealing with an animal in order to interact with or control their actions. Handling, which requires knowledge of the normal behaviour of an animal, particularly an animal that may be stressed or fearful, can include physical contact, as well as auditory, visual and olfactory cues and may involve use of physical barriers (e.g. gates) to properly direct animal movement.
Restraint: The use of manual, mechanical, or pharmaceutical modalities to limit some or all of an animal’s normal voluntary movement.
The following can be found at the College’s website at cvo.org:
Professional Practice Standard: Informed Client Consent
Guide to the Professional Practice Standard: Informed Client Consent
Professional Practice Standard: Establishing, Maintaining, and Discontinuing a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR)
Guide to the Professional Practice Standard: Establishing, Maintaining, and Discontinuing a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR)
Position Statement: Pain Management
It is recognized that this source list is limited in its overarching advice to veterinarians. It is meant as a basic reference, acknowledging that this area is constantly evolving and developing.