Access to Veterinary Care
Michigan Pet Alliance believes every animal has the right to high quality and affordable veterinary care. The veterinarian shortage in Michigan is causing animals to suffer while waiting weeks, even months, to be seen. Delays in obtaining spay and neuter services will only further contribute to overpopulation and compound the scarcity of veterinary services.
Telemedicine provides a means of access to services for those animals who may not be able to receive care otherwise. Advances in telemedicine technology make it possible to establish a safe veterinarian-client-patient relationship in order to provide routine care and to triage emergent concerns when veterinary services are unavailable due to being in a remote location or a shortage of veterinarians accepting new patients in the area.
Breed Discrimination/Comprehensive Dangerous Dog Laws
Public and private policies, as well as laws, that ban or restrict dog ownership based upon a dog’s known breed, perceived breed or appearance negatively impact individuals and society at large in many ways. Breed discriminatory laws are bad public policy solutions and have been shown to be ineffective at protecting the public and are costly to enforce. Studies have repeatedly shown that these laws and policies do not keep communities safe. Rather they deny individual dog owners equal opportunity, cause strife and conflict between neighbors, and in some situations have resulted in family pets being forcibly removed from their homes.
For these reasons Michigan Pet Alliance and its members are vehemently opposed to any law or policy, public or private, which restricts ownership of a certain dog based upon the breed or perceived breed of that dog.
Further, Michigan Pet Alliance and its members encourage the adoption of comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous dog/reckless owner laws and policies which ensure due process protections for owners, encourage responsible pet ownership and focus on the behavior of both dog owners and dogs.
Finally, Michigan Pet Alliance and its members encourage the immediate repeal of any breed specific provisions in current laws or policies, both public and private.
Michigan Pet Alliance is opposed to the elective declawing of cats. Declawing a cat is not a trivial procedure similar to trimming fingernails, but an amputation of the third bone in each toe. The procedure can lead to physical, emotional and behavioral complications, including inappropriate urination, biting, chronic back pain and overgrooming.
Scratching is a natural behavior for cats, and a cat’s claws are a vital part of her anatomy, essential to balance, mobility and survival. Problem scratching is best addressed through the use of behavioral modification.
Commercial Breeding and Sale of Companion Animals
Michigan Pet Alliance is opposed to the breeding and sale of companion animals for profit. Commercial breeding encourages a frequency of pregnancies that is unhealthy for the mother, utilizes breeding programs that perpetuate hereditary defects, and increases the likelihood of animals being kept in unsanitary conditions.
Dogs bred in these facilities often spend their entire lives in stacked, cramped wire cages, producing litter after litter until their bodies wear out. Dogs in commercial kennels often lack human contact, protection from extreme weather, adequate veterinary care, and opportunities to exercise.
Commercially raised puppies frequently suffer from genetic defects, injuries, infections, and diseases. Inadequate socialization and the trauma of transportation at an early age can lead to ongoing behavioral problems.
Pet shops sell puppies for thousands of dollars to consumers unaware of their inhumane background. Many consumers are faced with significant veterinary bills or even the death of their puppy soon after purchase. In a 10-year study of more than 5,000 puppy buyer complaints received by The Humane Society of the United States, Michigan ranked 6th in number of complaints about puppies purchased from pet stores.
Consumers can put a stop to harmful breeders by adopting from an animal shelter or rescue group, or purchasing from a humane and responsible breeder that can be carefully screened in person. Responsible breeders do not sell their animals to pet stores or use third party sellers. Instead, responsible breeders sell directly to the new owner to ensure a successful placement.
Michigan Pet Alliance supports laws prohibiting the retail sale of commercially raised companion animals.
Community Cat Programs
Michigan Pet Alliance (MPA) endorses the practice trap-neuter-return (TNR) as the most humane and effective way to manage community cats, addressing overpopulation, reducing nuisance complaints and preventing the spread of disease.
TNR involves humanely trapping community cats which are then evaluated. Healthy cats are then sterilized by a licensed veterinarian, vaccinated against rabies and distemper, and then returned to the location at which they were found. The tip of one ear is often clipped at the time of sterilization surgery, as this is the universally recognized indicator that a community cat has been sterilized and vaccinated. In many instances, a colony caregiver provides food and shelter in a safe location, and routinely observes the health of colony cats. If new cats join the colony, they are also trapped, sterilized, vaccinated and returned.
Relocation of outdoor cats should only be used as a last resort. Unless the cats are in imminent danger, they should go back to the territory in which they were found. Taking a cat out of his or her home area and relocating to a completely unknown location can cause undue suffering. Further, a stable, largely sterilized colony will shrink over time. Whereas creating a sudden vacuum will create space for new cats to enter the area and will increase fertility rates of any unsterilized animals. Kittens and easily observable friendly cats may be put up for adoption.
While some have concerns about outdoor cats on ecosystems, TNR is actually the only viable way to address population concerns. Further, scientific re-examination of alarmist reports on the impact of cats on bird populations have been dispelled. In fact, some studies show that outdoor cats can have a protective value on bird populations by preying on rodents that invade bird nests.
MPA opposes trap and kill methods, as they are not just inhumane but proven to be ineffective at stemming overpopulation. MPA also opposes housing feral cats in animal shelters beyond initial assessment, spay/neuter and recovery time, in accordance with the Association of Shelter Veterinarians Guidelines.
MPA urges government and private entities to adopt laws and policies which allow the implementation of TNR programs for community cats within their shelters, jurisdictions and communities so as to promote the effective, efficient, and humane management.
Michigan Pet Alliance fully supports the Fear Free movement. Animal shelters, veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, groomers, pet daycares and any location where there is a gathering of cats and/or dogs can produce a fearful and stressful environment for the animals. These environments may introduce confinement, new people and animals, loud noises, unfamiliar voices, strange smells, loss of family, home and familiar routines, invasive medical or grooming care and handling, and loss of choice and coping strategies inherently causing fear, anxiety and stress.
While some animals adjust easily to these environments, most experience some level of fear, anxiety and stress. This is particularly true for animals with prior trauma and/or less socialization. Fear, anxiety and stress not only cause emotional distress and discomfort, but they also make animals more vulnerable to behavior problems and disease. Stressors can also cause animals to be more difficult and dangerous to handle and more difficult for those in shelters to be adopted, causing longer length of stay and increased risk for euthanasia.
To reduce fear, stress and anxiety in animals, for the emotional comfort, health and well-being of animals in these environments, and to protect people from injury, Michigan Pet Alliance supports the requirement that all volunteers and staff who work with dogs and cats become Fear Free certified and that Fear Free practices are integrated into policies and procedures related to animal care, handling, and internal and external housing. Michigan Pet Alliance supports, to every extent possible, changes and improvements to facilities’ physical infrastructures to support a Fear Free environment. Fear Free continuing education should be required annually.
Shelter and Owner Requested Euthanasia of Companion Animals
The term euthanasia has been inaccurately used in sheltering for decades. The definition of the word contains two requirements: painless death and act of mercy. MPA supports the correct usage of the term. Ending an animal’s life which does not meet the two requirements is not euthanasia. Killing is defined as an act of causing death, deliberately.
MPA supports the no-kill movement, which seeks to eliminate the killing of healthy and treatable (manageable or rehabilitatable for medical or behavioral conditions) companion animals in our communities.
Euthanasia should be reserved to end an animal’s irreparable suffering. Suffering includes physical pain that cannot be remediated, as well as psychological suffering in which the animal’s quality of life is unacceptable – such as animals that are a danger to the community and life would require indefinite confinement and/or isolation. In either case, experts in behavior and/or veterinary medicine should be involved in the evaluation.
Euthanasia of companion animals should only be performed by injection, with two certified technicians present to ensure safety and comfort, in accordance with veterinary medical standards for euthanasia by injection using Fear Free© handling standards that minimize stress, fear, and physical pain and discomfort.
Organizations should create written policies on the conditions that warrant euthanasia and the evaluation and decision-making process. Organizations should also have clearly written procedures for those who perform euthanasia. All euthanasia technicians should receive proper training and certification, as well as access to emotional support.
Euthanasia should only be used as an act of mercy, administered with respect and sensitivity without pain or discomfort. Once a decision is made, animals should be euthanized as soon as possible to avoid additional suffering.
Healthy cats not suitable for in-home placement should go through trap, neuter and return (TNR) or be placed in a “working cat” or barn program. (See MPA Community Cats Position Statement)
While in care, all animals, regardless of condition and eventual outcome, should be provided with quality welfare according to the Five Freedoms.
Owner Requested Euthanasia
Owner requested euthanasia should follow the same medical and ethical standards as those for shelter animals – reserved to alleviate suffering for those with severe or terminal medical conditions or those who are psychologically suffering and are a danger to the community.
Owners with animals with treatable conditions should be offered assistance with veterinary care or relinquishment to the shelter as an alternative to euthanasia. Owners with animals in a suffering state should not be turned away without options.
Out of respect for the emotional bonds humans have with their pets and for the comfort of the animal at the end of life, euthanasia services should allow for the presence of a willing owner. Further, because owners who use euthanasia services through shelters are often low income or reside in communities where it difficult to access veterinary care, we believe allowing owner presence is an important equity issue.
Only animals surrendered with the stated intent for euthanasia, with behavioral or medical assessment for such need, should be documented as owner requested euthanasia in shelter reporting.
Surgical Alteration of Companion Animals for Cosmetic Reasons or Convenience
Michigan Pet Alliance opposes surgical alteration of companion animals for cosmetic reasons or convenience. Tail docking, ear cropping, declawing, and devocalization are examples of procedures that lack medical necessity and cause unjustifiable pain to the animal.
Surgical alterations due to injury, health reasons or for identification of spay/neuter status in Trap, Neuter, Return programs are not considered cosmetic.