The Role of the Zoo Veterinarian in the Regulation of Avian Welfare Under the Animal Welfare Act
The United States Department of Agriculture regulates animal welfare through inspections of covered animals in breeding, research, transportation, and exhibition facilities.1 Although birds, other than those bred for use in research, have been covered under the Animal Welfare Act since it was amended in 2002,2 they are not currently inspected because regulations have not yet been published. Timing for publication of the proposed regulations for comment hinges on multiple factors, including budgetary allowances and political influences. Because the proposed regulations are in departmental clearance at the time of this writing, contents of the draft cannot be shared. However, approaches to regulation of minimum standards of care for birds will likely not stray far from how mammals are currently regulated, thus an understanding of that process is helpful.3,4 In lieu of governmental minimum standards of compliance for avian welfare, the question for who should and can take the lead on the creation of standards of care for birds remains unanswered. Captive avian welfare remains a challenge as zoos focus on avian conservation in the wild, the aviculture industry decreases in size and scope, exotic animal veterinary associations realign, and sanctuaries expand. Given the often dichotomous opinions on avian care between these various stakeholders and the need for scientifically based approaches to welfare guidelines, the potential for the role the zoo veterinarian can play in promoting and protecting avian welfare is one that should be explored further.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. “The Animal Welfare Act Factsheet.” Animal Plant Health Inspection Service website. Published February 2012. Accessed 6/12/12. www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_welfare/content/printable_version/fs_awawact.pdf. [VIN editor: URL was not accessible as of 12-26-2020.]
2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Animal Welfare; Definition of Animal Federal Register Notice.” National Agriculture Library website. Published 6/4/2004. Accessed 6/12/12. www.nal.usda.gov/awic/pubs/AWA2007/FedReg69_108.pdf. [VIN editor: URL was not accessible as of 12-26-2020.]
3. U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Animal Exhibitors Factsheet.” Animal Plant Health Inspection Service website. Published February 2012. Accessed 6/12/12. www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_welfare/content/printable_version/fs_anexhit.pdf. [VIN editor: URL was not accessible as of 12-26-2020.]
4. U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Animal Welfare Act Inspection Information.” Animal Plant Health Inspection Service website. Published 4/22/10. Accessed 6/12/12. www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/inspections.shtml. [VIN editor: URL was not accessible as of 12-26-2020.]