For more information: Contact Dr. Robert Groskin, AAV Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AAV Position Statement on House Resolution 4239: SECURE American Energy Act
The U.S Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) was passed in 1918 in order to protect migratory birds from excessive hunting. Since then, the MBTA has expanded its geographic area and the number of bird species protected. The MBTA now protects over 1,000 wild bird species in the United States. The MBTA provides criminal sanctions against the unpermitted “take” of protected bird species, including death, by any means or manner, regardless of fault. In the 1970s, U.S. prosecutors began charging industries, including oil and gas, mining, electricity, timber, and chemical companies, for accidental deaths and injuries to protected birds. Since then, the MBTA has served as a useful tool to help prevent unnecessary injury or death to birds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) now requires best management practices for energy projects, such as the covering of open oil pits. The MBTA has also be used successfully to prosecute energy companies for violations of the Act. Over the past decade, several major energy companies have been fined in excess of $114 million, in part due to prosecution for violations of the MBTA including accidental deaths of golden eagles and other avian species associated with impacts with wind turbines and power lines and bird deaths associated with the largest oil spill in U.S history in the Gulf of Mexico.
In November of 2017, the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources approved an energy bill, H.R. 4239 (Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand American Energy Act, or SECURE American Energy Act). This bill removes liability to energy companies for the incidental or accidental “take” of bird species protected under the MBTA. If this bill passes in Congress, energy companies may be able to develop and build energy projects with impunity and with little regard to the accidental killing of protected birds. This will almost certainly result in more wild birds, perhaps millions more, dying from accidental causes directly related to energy projects.
The AAV believes that all industries, including energy companies, should be held accountable for their actions, including inadvertent bird deaths and injuries, associated with their activities. The AAV opposes any and all actions, including legislation, regulation, and opinion, that would undermine the MBTA.
The AAV opposes H.R. 4239.
AAV Position on House Resolution 2603: Saving America's Endangered Species Act
The Association of Avian Veterinarians is an international professional veterinary organization that strives to advance and promote avian medicine, stewardship, and conservation. The AAV has more than 1500 members comprised of veterinarians, veterinary technicians, veterinary students, and allied professionals that work in private practice, colleges and universities, zoos, government, and industry. Many of the AAV’s members are considered global leaders in avian conservation and wild bird health. Among the key objectives for the organization, the AAV strives to preserve and protect birds in the wild and their native habitats, including globally threatened and endangered species.
The AAV opposes H.R. 2603, also cited as the “Saving America’s Endangered Species Act” or the “SAVES Act.” H.R. 2603 is a bill that would remove federal protections given to non-native species listed as threatened or endangered on the US Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA is one of the most powerful pieces of conservation legislation in the history of the United States, and it has helped to save many native avian species from extinction including the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus), wood stork (Mycteria americana), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), and bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). The United States is considered a global leader in international conservation efforts. Global conservation has become increasingly important as worldwide biodiversity is declining. Without oversight and regulation, the United States could open the door for inappropriate or inhumane movement, breeding, and hunting of globally threatened and endangered species including birds.
HR 669: Non-native Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act
The Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV) is an international professional organization of 2,300 veterinary practitioners that promotes and advances avian medicine, welfare and conservation through education of its members, the at-large veterinary community, and the public.
The majority of our members also treat other exotic animals, including small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish. On behalf of our members and the public we swore to serve as part of our Veterinarian's Oath, we urge you to not support House Resolution 669: Non-native Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act (H. R. 669).
As veterinary professionals, we are concerned about the impact of invasive species and support the development of a strategic, risk-based process to prevent their introduction into the United States . However, we believe that this legislation, as written, will not achieve its intended purpose for these reasons:
- The bill requires funds and staffing not currently available to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
- The timetable for H. R. 669 is not achievable given the thousands of species of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians that will require risk assessment. The time required for risk assessment will leave millions of pet owners, pet retailers, breeders and millions of exotic animals in limbo awaiting their fate.
- The bill restricts species in habitats where invasion is biologically impossible. Few species have a nationwide ecological impact. These restrictions are better handled at the state or local levels.
- The bill legislates that the USFWS determine the potential harm of non-native species in all 50 states and territories. However, these areas comprise vastly different ecosystems. The assessment criteria used to place a species on the "Approved List" is difficult to accurately determine or define. If it does not already exist, scientific evidence may take years to develop and its interpretation may be highly subjective. Endless debates and challenges by animal rights groups will paralyze this process. H. R. 669 also lacks a process to verify the scientific data and conclusions presented in proposals. As a result, the litigious nature of this bill will be high.
- Thousands of exotic species have been maintained in the U.S. pet trade for decades and most have never established feral populations.
- The bill will have a substantial adverse economic impact on pet owners and many pet-related industries including veterinary practices. The establishment of a per species fee system "to recover costs of assessing risks of non-native wildlife species" also poses an unfair economic burden on those who lack financial means.
- H. R. 669 implies that pet owners must prove that their pet or parental stock was legally imported. This places an extraordinary burden of proof on the pet owner. Pet owners in the U.S. do not have access to original importation documents. Even the USFWS is not required to maintain such records and, in fact, does not currently possess such records from the years of heavy importation of exotic birds.
According to an American Pet Products Association national pet owners survey released in April 2009, 14 million U.S. households have freshwater or saltwater fish. Another 6 million households have pet birds while 4.7 million households have pet reptiles. More than 5.3 million households also keep small mammals as pets. H. R. 669 will negatively impact millions of companion animals and their caregivers' ability to provide for them. This could result in massive abandonment, release or euthanasia of these animals. We would like to be a part of establishing a practical regulatory framework which will protect our environment and our pets.
AAV Resolution on Free-roaming Cats
Whereas: Domestic cats (Felis domesticus) are a non-native introduced species wherever they occur;
Whereas: Free-roaming (stray and owned) cats have had well-documented significant impacts on local wildlife populations and are an important cause of the decline of neotropical migrants;
Whereas: Free-roaming (stray and owned) cats face a multitude of life-threatening hazards and diseases, present zoonotic risks to humans, and contribute to the growing problem of cat overpopulation and suffering;
Whereas: Managed cat colonies do not solve the problems of cat overpopulation and suffering, wildlife predation, or zoonotic disease transmission;
Whereas: Veterinarians are uniquely positioned to offer recommendations and counseling on indoor living as part of a feline preventative health program, and by offering this service can contribute to the improved welfare of cats;
Whereas: Veterinarians are increasingly concerned with preventative feline health care, yet are poorly trained to counsel cat owners to incorporate indoor living as part of a preventative health program;
Whereas: Promoting veterinary education which emphasizes responsible cat ownership, and supporting local ordinances that include mandatory licensing, vaccination, and neutering, can contribute to a reduction in the number of unwanted free-roaming cats;
Whereas: The Association of Avian Veterinarians seeks to preserve species and their natural habitats, and has adopted the philosophy that veterinarians should take a leading role in preventative care for all the earth;
Be it resolved that the AAV:
- Supports community efforts to develop local ordinances that a) require mandatory spay/neuter of all cats over six months of age unless the owner purchases an annual intact permit and/or breeders permit; b) require all cats to be licensed and vaccinated against rabies; c), discourage cat owners from allowing their cats to roam at large.
- Supports reducing the numbers of stray cats through humane capture (with placement in homes where appropriate) by local health departments, humane societies, and animal control officers.
- Supports actions by governmental wildlife agencies, public health agencies, and public and private organizations to ban or eliminate cat colonies on public lands in a humane manner and discourage feral cat colonies on private lands.
- Will work with veterinary educational institutions and other professional organizations - as well as within the AAV - to promote awareness, education, and research aimed at reducing the number of owned and stray free-roaming cats.
Permanent Anatomic Alterations of Avian Species
- The AAV does not support any surgical procedure that permanently and irrevocably alters avian anatomic structure or function, with the following exceptions:
- The procedure(s) is deemed necessary for the safety, health, husbandry, and well-being of the bird(s) and cannot be accomplished by other nonsurgical means such as an avicultural husbandry management practice.
- The procedure(s) is humanely performed in a valid research setting where such a procedure(s) has been approved by an institutional animal care and use committee or an appropriate oversight organization that considers the procedure(s) necessary for the study.
- The procedure(s) is deemed necessary by the administering veterinarian and is not on the list of condoned procedures in this statement.
- The AAV does not condone any surgical procedure resulting in the permanent and irrevocable alteration of avian anatomic structure or function that is performed for purely cosmetic purposes or to modify the innate behavior of the bird(s) when other nonsurgical alternatives may be employed.
- The AAV asserts that surgical cosmetic or behavior modification procedures may be associated with a high degree of risk to the patient, both intra- and post-operatively, and that such procedures are usually considered nonessential to the survival, health, and general welfare of the bird(s).
- The AAV strongly supports the implementation of noninvasive methods such as avicultural husbandry management techniques or behavior modification procedures to achieve the desired outcome.
- The AAV maintains that the tenets of this position statement do not extend to those avian species utilized in the food-animal industry.
The AAV further acknowledges that any of these surgical procedures may be performed legally, and that the AAV has no regulatory or legal authority over the practices of its members or associates.
Condoned Surgical Procedures
- Pinioning for de-flighting - Acceptable practice in birds that have injuries requiring amputation or in flighted species that are routinely kept in open enclosures. Not considered an acceptable practice in companion birds as a substitute for wing-feather trimming.
- Phalanx amputation or de-toeing - Acceptable practice in those species where this is required by law established by regulatory authorities.
- Ovariectomy and/or oviduct transection to reduce laying or caponizing to curb behavior abnormalities resulting from reproductive stress - Acceptable practice if performed humanely.
Discouraged Surgical Procedures
- Beak-splitting (mandibular bifurcation) to reduce aggression. Avicultural behavioral modification and proper husbandry practices are usually sufficient to resolve aggression tendencies in those species where this is a problem.
- De-vocalization or de-voicing to reduce noise by surgical alteration of the syrinx or associated structures.
Behavior Modification Alternatives to Surgical Procedures
- Aviculture Management Procedures - Behavior problems such as mate aggression may be addressed using proper avicultural socialization and pairing techniques. If the birds have not been properly socialized to participate in breeding situations, or if the appropriate pairing approaches have not been utilized when introducing the birds, then the likelihood of a successful mating occurring is greatly reduced and the probability that injury may result is increased. Therefore, surgically altering either partner in this scenario will not achieve the desired outcome of a successful pairing. It is recommended that the client seek out the advice of an avian veterinarian skilled in aviculture management or a professional aviculturist familiar with the reproductive husbandry of the species in question.
- Behavior Modification Employing a Veterinarian or Avian Consultant - Excessive vocalization, feather plucking, and biting may all be the result of improper socialization or avian behavior problems. Consulting an avian veterinarian or avian behavior consultant may help address some of these needs rather than resorting to surgical modification.
Sale of Unweaned Birds
The AAV strongly SUGGESTS that a supportive and sustaining vendor - client relationship exist whenever possible.
The AAV SUPPORTS the conveyance of unweaned birds between qualified parties who possess the necessary skills of handfeeding in accordance with accepted avicultural industry practices.
The AAV OPPOSES the sale or transfer of unweaned birds to individuals KNOWN not to possess the necessary level of experience in accordance with accepted avicultural industry practices.
The AAV OPPOSES the sale or transfer of any weaned or unweaned bird known to possess infectious disease(s) or metabolic disorder(s).
The AAV STRONGLY RECOMMENDS that birds be of sufficient age and condition before undergoing the rigors of transport, and that said birds be capable of withstanding the complications associated with such transport.
The AAV SUPPORTS the application of a permanent identification system to captive bred birds, including closed banding and microchip implantation.
The AAV RECOGNIZES that analytical testing for infectious disease is subject to broad interpretation, and ENCOURAGES that the testing for disease be left to the auspices of the veterinarian - client relationship.
The AAV ACKNOWLEDGES that the current state of infectious disease testing and prevention does not lead to an absolute assurance of a disease free state, and should not supplant good husbandry practices.
Lead-based Sporting Ammunition and Fishing Tackle
The Association of Avian Veterinarians RECOGNIZES that lead is a potent toxin to wild birds that can have individual-and population-level effects. Therefore, the AAV advocates the replacement of lead-based sporting ammunition and fishing tackle with non-lead alternatives.
Detailed backgrounder included in PDF
The AAV FINDS that the use of thoracic compression is an unacceptable method of euthanasia.
Asian H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza
Further modifications will be posted on the AAV website.
- The Asian H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus (HPAI) has yet not been found in the United States. Avian veterinarians should remain on alert and immediately report any suspicious avian morbidity or mortality to the United States Department of Agriculture (www.USDA.gov).
- The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), working in conjunction with states, has outlined a program for rapid response in the event that HPAI is detected within the US. APHIS is working closely with poultry producers regarding disease surveillance and disease containment. The USDA has placed temporary bans on the import of birds from any country in which HPAI has been reported. The poultry industry and the USDA are acting vigilantly to protect US poultry populations and keep our poultry free of HPAI. APHIS is monitoring wild populations of migratory birds in Alaska for the presence of HPAI.
- HPAI will not enter the US in legally imported exotic birds. Since 1972 all birds (poultry and exotic birds) imported into the US undergo mandatory quarantine by the US Department of Agriculture, and during this time each shipment has routinely been tested for the HPAI virus during quarantine. During that 30-year period, with the entry of many millions of exotic birds, the Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus has been found ONLY ONCE—in Pekin Robins from China—and it was not H5N1. HPAI is an extremely rare disease in exotic or companion and aviary birds. (See attached letter from Dennis Senne, virologist, National Veterinary Services Lab.)
- There have been no recorded cases of bird owners in the US contracting Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza from companion or aviary birds. The risk of indoor or protected companion birds contracting the disease appears to be minimal, and protective measures are well-described in the literature. People who are interested in purchasing companion and aviary birds in the US should know that no cases of transmission to humans from these birds has been recorded as of May 2006.
- If avian influenza appears in the US, isolating and securing companion and aviary birds from wild birds and poultry will help to protect pet birds from exposure to the avian influenza virus.
- Pathogenic Avian Influenza is a disease of domestic poultry, not all birds. Effective control must focus on the poultry industry in affected countries. Stringent global monitoring programs and immediate culling and correct disposal of infected poultry flocks are essential to limit the continued spread of the disease. Every effort must be made to limit the spread of the virus from infected poultry to wild waterfowl. Poultry commerce is a global industry, with tens of thousands of chickens legally transported daily from one continent to another. Although it is highly that unlikely day-old chicks would have avian influenza, shipping cartons, feed, feces, transportation vehicles, or contaminated clothing are all potential sources of viral spread. Illegal shipments of poultry, poultry products, or waste can help spread avian influenza.
- Avian flu exists in many strains, and mild forms of avian influenza are endemic to wild waterfowl such as mallards, but nearly all other varieties of birds have a low incidence of HPAI infection. The presence of avian influenza in wild waterfowl does not mean that the birds are diseased or that they can spread a virulent form of the virus to poultry or people. Wild birds that commonly harbor these viruses have developed resistance over many millennia; they rarely suffer illness from avian flu viruses. Avian migrations are typically North to South, not from Asia or Europe to the Americas, although weather conditions and food sources could alter some routes in a more westerly direction. In addition, the virus could leapfrog from one species to another more easterly migrating species. Insignificant migrations, mostly of shorebirds, occur from Russia across the Bering Strait into Alaska, but these birds are highly unlikely to come into contact with poultry housed outdoors. Were the avian influenza virus to enter the western hemisphere from migratory birds, wild birds in Alaska would be the first to become infected. US government teams are actively engaged in surveillance of waterfowl in Alaska (Statements of American Bird Conservancy, Bird Life International).
- The World Health Organization has reported 152 laboratory-confirmed human cases of infection with H5N1 avian influenza in Asia, Turkey, and Iraq since 2003. Of these, 83 have been fatal (www.who.org, 1-30-06).
- The case fatality rate may be skewed by the fact that poor people in rural areas who are most likely to be infected are not likely to seek medical care unless their illness is grave. The human population of Asia exceeds 3.5 billion. (See attached story from the New York Times.) The socioeconomic impact of avian influenza on the poorest human populations cannot be overstated. Poultry products are a main source of protein nutrition for a vast majority of the world’s population. Poor populations suffer when villages and contracted growers’ chickens are culled and fear of contaminated produce stops them from eating poultry products.
- In Asia it is common for millions of people to live in close contact with poultry, with the birds often entering their homes. If a bird becomes ill the family will often slaughter it, clean it, and cook it, potentially exposing themselves to the virus. Direct heavy exposure to an infected bird’s body fluids is usually necessary for transmission to people. Millions of domestic birds in Asia and Turkey have become infected and have been destroyed to control the spread of the virus. Vaccination against avian influenza is being used in some countries to slow the spread of HPAI; however, it is not the preferred strategy for stopping the spread of this disease. If a vaccinated bird is exposed to HPAI it could develop a mild asymptomatic disease and could shed sufficient virus to infect other birds. Vaccination may also interfere with detection of the virus by regional or national health officials. Vaccination programs are costly, both in terms of vaccine price and manpower, and may miss many village chickens. Vaccinations must be repeated every 20 weeks for longer-living birds.
- Influenza viruses do not persist in the environment outside of a host for long periods of time. The avian influenza virus is extremely susceptible to dehydration, ultraviolet light, and high temperatures. At 70°F, in dry conditions, the avian influenza will die within minutes. Under ideal conditions at room temperatures, human flu viruses can remain infective for about one week. Exposure to sunlight drastically reduces the length of time flu viruses can remain infective. At cold temperatures, in feces, the virus can survive for weeks. If frozen they can remain viable indefinitely. If poultry is cooked to 160°F all PHAI is inactivated.
- Avian flu viruses rarely, if ever, jump straight to becoming easily transmissible human flu viruses. Typically, avian influenza must undergo a series of mutations or a major genetic change to acquire the ability of human-to-human transmission. Major genetic changes may occur when an animal or human is infected with two different strains of influenza. Simultaneous infections of human and bird flu in a pig may be required for the viruses to interchange their genetic information and become both highly infectious to humans and highly pathogenic. This is the potential that public health officials fear; however, these large changes in genetic makeup are just as likely to result in genetic changes that make the virus nonpathogenic (National Geographic Magazine, October 2005, "Killer Flu.")
- Worldwide, there are many strains of avian influenza that cause varying degrees of illness in poultry. Each year there is a flu season for birds just as there is for humans, and, as with people, some forms of the flu are worse than others. HPAI has been detected three times in the US: in 1924, 1983, and 2004. The 2004 outbreak was quickly confined to one flock and eradicated ( USDA News Release No 0459.05, 10-26-05). An outbreak of HPAI h7n7 affected the Netherlands, resulting in several hundred human cases of conjunctivitis, the death of one veterinarian, and the culling of thirty million chickens.
- As long as the H5N1 virus does not gain the ability to transmit from human to human, its impact on human health will continue to be minimal. However, it is important to eliminate the virus from the avian population to protect both birds and people. Culling of uninfected avian populations will not assist in the control of avian influenza. If HPAI is detected in poultry in the US, bird owners, breeders, veterinarians, and zoological parks should practice the most stringent biosecurity measures to prevent the spread from poultry to other captive avian species. An additional risk is the potential for local avian depopulation due to potential exposure if eradication programs are initiated in the surrounding locality. IF HPAI is detected in the US in wild migratory birds, all captive birds should remain housed indoors. For birds housed outdoors, every measure should be taken to prevent or reduce exposure to wild migratory birds, especially waterfowl.
- Culling wild populations of migrating birds is not an effective method of controlling the spread of wildlife diseases. Culling birds may facilitate dispersal of wild birds to new areas; it is difficult to determine which wild bird species are vectors of disease rather than victims, and these actions could endanger species (Birdlife International, position statement on avian influenza, www.birdlife.org).
- If pathogenic human-to-human transmitted avian influenza does enter the US, its most likely source will be by entry of infected humans, not by infected birds. The 2003 SARS outbreak in Canada was caused by an infected international traveler; other cases occurred in exposed health care workers. This outbreak was brought under control by a diligent public health response and monitoring of travelers for signs of illness (e.g., fever).
- Media reports about bird flu have created a state of fear that can be detrimental to birds and the relationship of people to birds. A rational response is necessary to avoid further deterioration of public perception. Although media reports have highlighted the serious nature of bird flu, there are many important scientific questions about this disease still unanswered. The AAV provides links for real-time updates about avian influenza, including current outbreaks and species affected. As part of the first responder team, avian veterinarians are working with public health professionals and conservationists to provide a rational response to the threat of avian influenza.
Keeping Birds in Captivity
The Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV) supports the keeping of birds in captivity. By definition, "captivity" includes the keeping of domestically raised as well as wild-caught birds in cages and enclosures.
The AAV does not endorse inappropriate husbandry for those birds that are maintained in captivity.
Since its founding in 1980 the AAV has been a positive influence benefiting both birds and the humans with whom they interact. Through educational efforts the AAV has had a substantial role in the improvement and welfare of birds, particularly those that are maintained in captivity. The AAV does not, and has not condoned abuse, neglect or inhumane treatment of birds in any setting.
A consistent and continually evolving stance supports the improved health and welfare of birds and remains a core value of this association. Oriented to avian species, the AAV, an international veterinary association with members from all 50 states and 44 countries, is well positioned to comment professionally, scientifically, nationally and internationally on issues relating to the ethics, husbandry and medical care of birds.
The AAV does not support unscientific, emotionally based recommendations towards changing the legal, medical or husbandry standards of avian healthcare. Such recommendations can result in harm to the health of and welfare of birds.
Neglect of birds that are maintained in captivity occurs on occasion. This however, does not invalidate merit of the mission of the AAV – advancing and promoting the health of birds through improved and responsible stewardship.
The AAV continually works to elevate the standard of avian stewardship and healthcare through education, and accepts as a part of this effort a need to educate those who desire to improve the welfare of birds but are recommending action that is misguided, biased or misinformed.
Birds that are maintained in a captive setting have great value for human beings on many levels. Historically, mankind has always had a preoccupation with birds. They are represented prominently in our folklore, mythology and religion. Birds are abundantly represented in literature, music and art, and have been particularly important in the aesthetics of human live from the earliest times of which there is any record.
The modern international trade in caged birds, like the trade in skins and feathers of a hundred years ago, is an extreme distortion of what is evidently a deep-felt and almost universal human desire to have some degree of association with birds.
Economics are a factor in the trade of live birds, however there is also non-economic value in the keeping of birds. These values encompass ethical, cultural, theological and personal values for us all. The AAV acknowledges a value of bird interaction with man, and that the keeping of birds in captivity serves this need for our species on many levels.
Outside of the pet trade, the AAV acknowledges that the keeping of birds in captivity has value in other important areas. These include many aspects of endangered species recovery and preservation efforts, captive breeding programs, re-introduction programs and conservation efforts. The ethically and medically appropriate management of some individuals in captivity, in essence, is important for the future of the wild counterparts of many avian species.