Tail Docking Policy for Telemedicine Revised by AVMA

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has made revisions to its “Tail Docking of Cattle” policy allowing the procedure to be done under guidance of a veterinarian via telemedicine when medically necessary.

During a meeting on April 5-6, the AVMA Board of Directors approved a revision to the policy based on recommendations from the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee.

“The AVMA opposes routine tail docking of cattle,” according to the policy. “Current scientific literature indicates that routine tail docking provides no benefit to the animal, and that tail docking can lead to distress during fly seasons.”

AVMA’s previous policy said, “When medically necessary, amputation of tails must be performed by a licensed veterinarian.”

The new policy states, “Tails may be amputated on an individual basis when medically necessary by or under the guidance of a licensed veterinarian.”

The Animal Welfare Committee made their advice to change the policy because there are a limited number of veterinarians in rural America. The group advises that veterinarians perform the procedure of “tail docking” or “tail amputation.” However, when cost, time, or travel constraints prohibit the veterinarian from performing the procedure, telemedicine can be used to determine when amputation of a tail is medically necessary.

Veterinarians should train farmers or ranchers how to properly tail dock under an existing veterinarian-client-patient relationship.

Tail docking was a common practice in the dairy industry where some farmers removed the bottom third of the tail. It is thought that docking tails helps improve cow cleanliness and working conditions for employees. However, the practice has fallen out of favor with industry groups like AVMA, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) and the National Mastitis Council (NMC), no longer supporting tail docking.

On Jan. 1, 2010, California outlawed tail docking and several other states have looked into similar bans such as failed attempt in Colorado in 2013. Last year the National Milk Producers Federation Board (NMPF) ban on tail docking went into effect.

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