As efforts to reduce the euthanasia of unwanted and unowned dogs and cats, including feral cats, have increased, greater attention has been focused on spay-neuter programs throughout the United States. Spay-neuter programs are designed to facilitate access to spay-neuter services among targeted populations of animals in an effort to prevent reproduction and reduce subsequent overpopulation. Current programs include designated spay-neuter practices in stationary and mobile clinics, MASH-style operations, shelter services, feral cat programs, and voucher systems as well as other in-clinic programs provided through private practitioners. In addition, a variety of programs have been established within veterinary colleges. In particular, many spay-neuter programs have been established to provide quality spay-neuter services to high numbers of patients on a regular basis. The proliferation and diversity of these spay-neuter programs have created a need for guidelines for appropriate veterinary medical care in these settings.
In response to this need, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians convened a task force consisting of 22 veterinarians from every region of the United States in December 2006. Task force members were charged with developing veterinary medical care guidelines for spay-neuter programs and included individuals from academia, private practice, and several existing spay-neuter programs. The guidelines they developed consist of recommendations for preoperative care, anesthetic management, surgical care, and postoperative care and are based on current principles of anesthesiology, critical care medicine, microbiology, and surgical practice, as determined by means of reviews of the scientific literature and expert opinion.
In developing these guidelines, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians hoped to establish spay-neuter practice as a recognized practice area within veterinary medicine; instill confidence in the general public regarding the use of spay-neuter programs; promote acceptance of this practice area by the veterinary profession and the public, thereby encouraging increased veterinary participation; provide guidance for veterinarians in this practice area; encourage existing programs to recognize and adhere to these guidelines as a means of ensuring acceptable levels of care; foster confidence among private practitioners regarding local spay-neuter programs and facilitate patient referral; provide a reference for use by state boards of veterinary medicine, other governing agencies, and veterinary professional associations; and provide a set of benchmarks by which funding agencies and donors can determine whether the spay-neuter programs they support provide acceptable levels of care. It is the Association's hope that these guidelines will help to establish the consistency and professionalism necessary for the veterinary profession to promote spay-neuter programs as a means to end the overpopulation of unwanted dogs and cats.
Recognizing that regional differences may exist among spay-neuter programs, guidelines developed by the task force were intentionally broad. Nevertheless, task force members believe that these guidelines represent practical recommendations that are attainable by the vast majority of spay-neuter programs. Importantly, they are meant to enhance, not replace, state practice acts, and where differences exist between these guidelines and state practice acts, veterinarians are encouraged to comply with the more stringent guidelines.
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