Support For Responsible Breeding

Photo Credit: Flicker CC license, m-gen, BulldogThe American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Animal Welfare Committee has proposed a policy pertaining to breeding of dogs, cats, and other companion animals. The policy titled, “Inherited Disorders in Responsible Breeding of Companion Animals” is up for approval when members of the AVMA House of Delegates meet later this month.

The policy reads as follows:

The AVMA supports the responsible breeding of companion animals such that only animals without deleterious inherited disorders are selected for breeding. Companion animals exhibiting inherited characteristics that negatively affect the animal’s health and welfare should not be bred, as those characteristics and related problems are likely to be passed on to their progeny. This would include inherited conditions such as brachycephalic syndrome, some joint diseases, bone deformation (e.g., radial hypoplasia “twisty cats”, munchkin), heart and eye conditions, or poor temperament (e.g., Springer rage syndrome). The AVMA encourages veterinarians to educate breeders, pet owners and the public on the responsibilities involved with breeding and selecting pets to ensure that they are not contributing to poor welfare issues.

The potential impact of the policy

Assuming the AVMA will adopt this policy in January (they darned well better!), how will this policy statement be put to use? It’s not as though the AVMA has any direct control over the actions of people who want to breed their animals.

It sounds like the intent of this policy is to give veterinarians a kick in the pants to have more intentional conversation with their clients about breeding their pets (or not breeding them). Every veterinarian has exposure to irresponsible breeding yet, goodness knows, most of us have been far too silent on this topic. Guaranteed, there’s not a veterinarian whose been in practice for more than a few years who hasn’t been in the exam room with a sobbing client while euthanizing a beloved pet because of an inherited defect. And we’ve all examined animals with faddish extremes of conformation that we know will ultimately result in pain and suffering. How many of us have performed artificial insemination and cesarean sections on dogs who are unable to breed and whelp normally on their own?

Without question the majority of veterinarians could be doing a much better job advocating for responsible breeding practices. Perhaps this AVMA policy will help us step closer to this goal.

It’s about time!

While I’m certainly pleased to see that the AVMA is considering this policy, part of me wants to ask, “Where have you been all my life?” To my way of thinking, not only is this policy a “no brainer” now, it would have been so when my career began some 30 plus years ago. Call me impatient, but I can’t help but wonder why good things take so friggin’ long to come to fruition within large organizations. The bottom line is, whether now or then, anything that favors responsible breeders and removes others from the gene pool makes really good sense.

How do you feel about this policy? Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Happy new year,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.



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One Comment on “Support For Responsible Breeding

  1. The AVMA walks on the line of becoming irrelevant in many companion animal issues
    So hooray, they say we officially think you should not be breeding irresponsibly. How is this even considered an eventful announcement? How about they man up and come out dead set against puppy mill breeding. Is it hard to draw a line in the sand on some issues like what makes you a hobby breeder versus a puppy mill? Maybe, but not that damn hard. Big lobbyists put forth money to fight ever bit of legislation that people try to pass on state levels about that. How about they do something really useful like work on a wording of anti companion animal used as production animal bill and fight for something like that. Help make sure such bills are worded properly not to impact food animal production or tge average actual reputable breeder. Make a difference for the companion animals we care for and not just produce a useless gee whiz statement.

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