DOCUMENTS: U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, 2012 edition

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  April 2013:

U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook,  2012 edition ($195 member download;  $295 non-member download;  $20 extra for printed copy.) American Veterinary Medical Association,  1931 North Meacham Road, Suite 100,  Schaumburg,  IL 60173. 186 pages,  paperback.    AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals:  2013 edition Free download from:   https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Documents/euthanasia-highres.pdf

The American Veterinary Medical Association charges from $195 to $315 for the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographic Sourcebook,  2012 edition,  depending on the membership status of the customer and the format in which the book is provided,  but the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals:  2013 edition are free for the downloading. The price difference reflects market conditions,  rather than the respective utility of the publications.  I keep icons for both on my computer desktop.  Before earlier editions of the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographic Sourcebook and the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals became available in electronic formats,  I kept printed copies near my desk.  They became worn to tatters. The U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographic Sourcebook is priced high because the research it contains is of substantial economic value to veterinary clinic owners and the pet industry.  The U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographic Sourcebook information would also be of significant value to public policymakers,  including the humane community,  if more potential users knew it existed.  Highlights are occasionally included in news reports pertaining to the pet industry,  but usually without including the wealth of detail that can be extracted by studying the various tables and summaries. “Published every five years,”  says the AVMA promotional literature,  “this report provides statistical data on the population of pets in the United States,  including dogs,  cats,  birds,  horses,  and other pets,” including “geographic breakdowns,  detailed household characteristics comparing owners of pets with non-owners,  and veterinary use and expenditures.” The executive summary to the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographic Sourcebook,  2012 edition notes the first decline in pet-keeping in the U.S. to be documented in 85 years of studies known to ANIMAL PEOPLE––and probably the first decline in pet-keeping ever.   The overall decline was modest,  a mere 2.4%,  but bird-keeping dropped by 20.5%,  despite the soaring popularity of keeping backyard chickens; horse-keeping fell 16.7%;  keeping exotic pets,  rabbits,  rodents,  and reptiles dropped 16.5%;  keeping cats fell 6.2%;  and even keeping dogs declined by 1.9%. The U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographic Sourcebook delves only lightly into whys and wherefores.  It notes,  for example,  that the popularity of keeping birds as pets has now fallen 46% in 20 years,  without mentioning that this coincides with the passage of the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992,  which cut off the supply of cheap parrots,  parakeets,  finches,  and lovebirds who were then plentifully available even in department stores. A factor in the decline of cat-keeping may be the reduced numbers of feral-born kittens needing homes.  A factor in the decline of dog-keeping may be the reduced availability of dogs other than pit bulls at animal shelters:  85% of dog-keepers indicated a preference for getting their next dog from a shelter (45%) or rescue group (40%).  Another 10% preferred to pick up a stray.  But while about 30% of the dogs entering shelters are pit bulls,  according to annual ANIMAL PEOPLE surveys,  only about 16% of adopters choose a pit bull. Among the more alarming findings reported in the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographic Sourcebook, 2012 edition,  attributed by the compilers to the depressed economy of recent years,  is that “The percent of pet-owning households making no trip at all to the veterinarian in 2011 increased by 8% for dogs and a staggering 24% for cats.” Of the dog visits to vets,  5.7% were for sterilization;  3.4% were for euthanasia.  Of the cat visits to vets,  13.7% were for sterilization;  7.6% were for euthanasia.  More than three times as many dogs and cats were sterilized as were microchipped for identification.  The most noteworthy change in the frequency of these procedures over the past 10 years is that the rate of cat euthanasia has more than doubled, reflective of fewer cats entering homes than are aging out of the pet population. Meanwhile,  an alternate explanation for many cats not being taken for routine veterinary visits is that many cats who have been taken for sterilization and vaccination are feral,  and after return to their habitat are not easily recaptured unless gravely ill or injured. The very last page explains how to use the data presented to estimate community animal populations:  multiply the number of households by .56 to get the number with pets,  by .365 to get the number of dogs,  and by .304 to get the number of cats.

Euthanasia

While U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographic Sourcebook is an invaluable analytic tool,   the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals is a how-to that anyone directing an animal shelter,  veterinary clinic,  animal population control campaign,  animal cruelty prosecution,  or animal control reform campaign needs to absorb and understand. Explains the promotional literature,  “The AVMA Panel on Euthanasia was first convened in 1963 to create guidelines for veterinarians who carry out or oversee the euthanasia of animals.  As the guidelines have become increasingly influential,  and in some cases recognized as a legal standard,  the specificity and scope of the guidelines have broadened with subsequent editions.  Over time,  revisions to the document have included coverage of more methods and species,  information about animals’ physiologic and behavioral responses to euthanasia,  euthanasia’s effects on those performing and observing it,  and the economic feasibility and environmental impacts of various approaches.” Over the years the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals have been instrumental in the abolition of killing shelter dogs and cats by decompression,  drowning,  gunshot,  carbon monoxide gassing, and lethal injections of  magnesium sulfate and T-61––all quite common in the U.S. in 1963,  but mostly history in the U.S. now.  The AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals have also been influential in promoting the abolition of these methods abroad,  where some of them are still widely used. The 2013 edition of AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals disappoints in one respect.  As the co-authors explain,  “One area identified as needing additional guidance upon review of the last iteration of the Guidelines was depopulation (ie, the rapid destruction of large numbers of animals in response to emergencies, such as the control of catastrophic infectious diseases or exigent situations caused by natural disasters).  Depopulation may employ euthanasia techniques,  but not all depopulation methods meet the criteria for euthanasia.  Because they do not always meet the criteria for euthanasia,  these techniques will be addressed in a separate document,  the AVMA Guidelines for the Depopulation of Animals. Similarly,  because methods used for slaughter may also not meet all the conditions necessary to be deemed euthanasia,  these techniques will be addressed by a third document,  the AVMA Guidelines for the Humane Slaughter of Animals.” Indeed,  depopulation and/or slaughter of healthy animals could never meet the requirement that euthanasia must be in the best interest of the animal being euthanized.  But the documents on depopulation and slaughter have not yet been published,  though urgently needed.  They were widely expected to either be included in the 2013 Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals or be published separately at the same time. ANIMAL PEOPLE understands that the content of the AVMA Guidelines for the Depopulation of Animals and the AVMA Guidelines for the Humane Slaughter of Animals are still under heated internal debate among the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia members,  a decade after the methods used to depopulate poultry and livestock in response to outbreaks of SARS,  the H5N1 avian flu,  exotic Newcastle disease,  and foot-and-mouth disease occasioned the humane community and the International Society for Infectious Diseases to ask the AVMA to produce applicable guidelines. ––Merritt Clifton

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