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AVMA Passes New Policy to Encourage Humane Treatment of Captive Elephants, Appropriate Use of Training Tools

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., May 6 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) issued a new policy offering guidance on the humane treatment and handling of elephants by veterinarians and handlers.

Elephant handlers and veterinarians generally use two tools in handling and training elephants, tethers to restrict movement temporarily and a shaft with a blunt hook near one end known as a guide. The new policy, passed by the AVMA Executive Board on April 12, 2008, states that guides should not tear or penetrate the skin and tethers should not result in discomfort or skin injury for the elephant.

Dr. David Miller, an AVMA Animal Welfare Committee member, explains the AVMA approved the new policy to help keep these vital tools available. California, New York and Massachusetts have considered banning the use of guides and tethers.

"There are those who are opposed to keeping elephants in captivity or are concerned about situations in which elephants are perceived to be abused. By proposing legislation that bans the use of guides and tethers, these groups feel they are addressing those issues," Dr. Miller explains. "Legislative bans hinder the ability of veterinarians to safely diagnose and treat elephants on the level of individuals, as well as conduct research that is needed for their long-term persistence as a species."

Dr. Linda Reeves Peddie, an expert on veterinary care for elephants, explained that the use of these tools helps in providing appropriate health care for elephants.

"Our primary concern in promoting the new AVMA policy with regard to guides and tethers is to facilitate optimal health care for our elephant patients and to safeguard the providers of that care," explains Dr. Peddie. "The use of tethers and guides makes it possible to train elephants to accept us -- veterinarians -- as purveyors of medicine, and they also allow us to work with and to do research on these endangered species. Bear in mind that Asian elephants are an endangered species."

The full policy may be accessed on the AVMA Website ( at

The AVMA and its more than 78,000 member veterinarians are engaged in a wide variety of activities dedicated to advancing the science and art of animal, human and public health.

SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association
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