Letters to the Editor

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Questions ethics of crating

I wish to express concern regarding the recent Animal Behavior Case of the Month report regarding a 9-month-old Siberian Husky with separation anxiety.1 According to the report, the dog was examined because of “screaming and crying noises when left alone in a crate during the owner's absence from the home.” Treatment consisted of a combination of behavior modification, clomipramine, and clorazepate dipotassium. After 5 months of treatment, “The owner reported that the dog was able to stay alone in the new crate for more than 5 hours with good behavior.” One month later, the dog was reportedly quiet in its crate when the owner was away from the home, and the dosage of clomipramine was gradually decreased. It was also noted that “Because the dog seemed to enjoy visiting the daycare facility, the owner continued to take it there twice a week.”

Although the owner was satisfied with the dog's behavior, I personally do not believe that confining active young dogs in crates for several hours is humane and feel that use of psychotropic medications to help dogs adapt to conditions of social and environmental deprivation, regardless of additional owner counseling or behavior modification, is ethically questionable. That such dogs might otherwise be euthanized is, to me, beside the point, and I would suggest that prospective owners must either understand and provide the basic biological and behavioral needs of their dogs or be advised that their lifestyle and home environment is not suitable for certain breeds. Perhaps the AVMA might open this issue for closer scrutiny.

Michael W. Fox, dsc, phd

Golden Valley, Minn

1. Irimajiri M, Crowell-Davis SL. Animal behavior case of the month. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2014; 245:10071009.

The author responds:

I want to thank Dr. Fox for his comments on our recent Animal Behavior Case of the Month article.1 Given the nature of the article, details of the owner's daily life were not included, and this may have led to some concerns.

The dog described in the report was determined to have separation anxiety, which is one of the anxiety disorders seen in dogs and cats. Separation anxiety is not a rare behavioral disorder that veterinarians face. It is, in fact, something veterinarians see quite often and is a problem that we can treat, increasing affected dogs’ quality of life, rather than euthanizing them. In this case, the dog was excessively anxious about the owner leaving the house. The dog would scratch, bite, and destroy curtains and blinds in the owner's house to reduce the anxiety associated with being left alone. If in a crate, the dog would scream and cry excessively to reduce anxiety.

The owner was taking the dog with her during her morning and evening jogs and walks, providing almost 2 hours of daily exercise. She chose to have a dog because she wanted a companion for her exercise. She played with the dog in the evening and did not put the dog in the crate until she went to bed at night. The dog was never confined to or left in the crate for no reason. Rather, the owner left the dog in a crate when she went to work and when she went to bed for the dog's safety, because she could not supervise the dog during these times. This is a common method of managing puppies and adult dogs to keep them safe.

The dog described in our case report did not suffer as a result of the owner's treatment. Rather, the dog was suffering from an anxiety disorder that was reducing the dog's quality of life and the owner's as well.

On the basis of the dog's history and results of our examination of the dog and owner, we determined that the dog's only problem was separation anxiety. Therefore, we elected to treat the dog for this problem.

Mami Irimajiri, bvsc, phd

Tokyo, Japan

1. Irimajiri M, Crowell-Davis SL. Animal behavior case of the month. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2014; 245:10071009.

AVMA policy on trap-neuter-vaccinate-return programs for free-roaming cats

As AVMA members and veterinarians working with outdoor community cats and shelter medicine programs, we welcome the ongoing review of the AVMA policy “Free-roaming Abandoned and Feral Cats.” Importantly, we do not believe that the current policy accurately reflects emerging veterinary research about community cats and are concerned that it does not encourage the one approach proven to successfully address them: trap-neuter-vaccinate-return (TNVR). We are hopeful the policy review will result in more accurate and better guidance for veterinarians and will support TNVR as the default approach for dealing with outdoor community cats.

Contrary to the current policy, veterinary studies of outdoor community cats do not suggest their life is dominated by suffering and disease. The research indicates that unowned outdoor cats generally have healthy weights, score in the middle of body score measurement scales,1 and develop infections at low rates similar to rates within the pet cat population.2 Less than 0.5% of cats brought to spay-neuter clinics are euthanized for humane reasons,3 and community cat health is documented to improve after neutering.

Importantly, TNVR programs have been shown to reduce the population of unowned community cats over time and to reduce stray cat intake to animal shelters.4 Population reductions have been identified in a variety of settings, including experimental projects, large-scale programs on college campuses,5 and urban settings.6 Trap-and-remove policies, by contrast, are recognized by many animal control officers and others as not being effective in reducing cat populations over the long run because sexually intact cats left behind will breed and fill the resource vacuum left by removed cats.7

Since the AVMA last updated the “Free-roaming Abandoned and Feral Cats” policy in 2004, other professional associations, including the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, the International Society of Feline Medicine, and the American Association of Feline Practitioners have released position statements that support TNVR, with the goal of improving cat welfare and decreasing outdoor cat populations.

The AVMA should take advantage of the review process to similarly update its policy. We believe that an updated policy statement focused on TNVR for outdoor community cats would allow the AVMA to again be the leader on this important issue.

G. Robert Weedon, dvm, mph

Urbana, Ill

Julie Levy, dvm, phd

Gainesville, Fla

Kate F. Hurley, dvm, mpvm

West Sacramento, Calif

Jessica Perry Hekman, dvm

Urbana, Ill

Nicole Ferguson, dvm, ms

Cape Coral, Fla

Matthew Dixon, ms, dvm

Port Royal, SC

Christine Wilford, dvm

Bellevue, Wash

Rosemary C. Lindsey, dvm

Fort Worth, Tex

Rizal Lopez, dvm

Largo, Fla

Teri Kidd, dvm

Eureka, Ill

Margaret Ferrell, dvm

Birmingham, Ala

Holly Anderson, dvm

Homewood, Ill

Kathy Makolinski, dvm

Orchard Park, NY

  • 1. Scott KC, Levy JK, Gorman SP, et al. Body condition of feral cats and the effect of neutering. J Appl Anim Welf Sci 2002; 5:203213.

  • 2. Luria BJ, Levy JK, Lappin MR, et al. Prevalence of infectious diseases in feral cats in Northern Florida. J Feline Med Surg 2004; 6:287296

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  • 3. Wallace JL, Levy JK. Population characteristics of feral cats admitted to seven trap-neuter-return programs in the United States. J Feline Med Surg 2006; 8:279284.

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  • 4. Levy JK, Isaza NM, Scott KC. Effect of high-impact targeted trap-neuter-return and adoption of community cats on cat intake to a shelter. Vet J 2014; 201:269274.

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  • 5. Levy JK, Gale DW, Gale LA. Evaluation of the effect of a long-term trap-neuter-return and adoption program on a free-roaming cat population. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003; 222:4246.

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  • 6. Natoli E, Maragliano L, Cariola G, et al. Management of feral domestic cats in the urban environment of Rome (Italy). Prev Vet Med 2006; 77:180185.

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  • 7. Taking a broader view of cats in the community. Animal Sheltering 2008;Sept-Oct:89.

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