The Veterinarian’s Oath

by Michael
(London, UK)

Modified (of course!) photo by John on Flickr (Flickr name: mtsofan)

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Modified (of course!) photo by John on Flickr (Flickr name: mtsofan)

The veterinarian's oath is central to everything the vet does. It guides him or her. It is a reference point in decision making. It is at the core of their work. Why, then, do nearly all the veterinarians in the USA disregard it, break it, tear it up day in and day out, millions of times over many years?

Does it have the value it was designed to have? Do vets cynically disregard it because no one enforces it? Do vets actually believe that they follow the oath but have simply lost their moral compass to such an extent that they deceive themselves in respect of this most important promise?

I am talking about declawing cats. Nearly all declawing operations are for non-therapeutic reasons and are therefore for the benefit of the person not the cat. The operation is detrimental to the cat - clear breach of oath. A vet cannot partially comply with his or her oath. It is an all or nothing promise.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) say that the veterinarian oath has "tremendous meaning" and that "It's a promise that each veterinarian makes at graduation...". Why do they routinely break that sacred promise?

As the veterinarian oath is so blatantly disregarded why did the AVMA consider changing it? Why bother?

Yet, it has been changed, albeit subtly from the 2nd December 2010. Here is the new veterinarian oath with the new wording highlighted:

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence

The new words add "welfare and "prevention" to the oath.

The AVMA says that vets work includes the "prevention of suffering and promotion of good welfare". There is no doubt that the new oath is better but does it matter?

More importantly to me, will it help stop vets declawing cats? Is this a rather feeble attempt of the AVMA to try and get the attention of the vets to think about what they are doing in declawing cats - flagrantly breaching the oath?

I have no idea, frankly. I know one thing, though. The oath is almost meaningless, currently, as it is breached collectively.

On the face of it, there is no benefit in rewriting a piece of text that has no relevance in the lives of those it is meant to guide....What do you think?

Oh, I almost forgot. The AVMA says this about declawing:

Declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when their clawing presents a zoonotic risk for its owner(s)....How many American vets do that!?

Please see some selected earlier posts on this subject:

American Vets are Unethical Towards the Cat

Rate Veterinarians On Declawing

Michael Avatar

Note: I am indebted to Jo Singer, a regular and valued contributor for her post on this subject that was picked up by Google Alerts.

Comments for
The Veterinarian's Oath

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Dec 28, 2010 ps to Kathy
by: Ruth

Better still, give Barbara the details and she'll do one of her wonderful name and shame articles here on PoC and we'll put the link on facebook !!

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Dec 28, 2010 Name and Shame!
by: Barbara

Kathy, do you still have the advert? Maybe you could name and shame the vet on here, and on Facebook if you use it where we have an anti-declaw group called The International Coalition Against Declawing!/home.php?sk=group_176466325713297&ap=1
if not one of us can put it onto Facebook, then we can get theat vet some bad publicity.

Barbara avatar

Dec 28, 2010 To Kathy
by: Ruth

Go for it Kathy !!! I'd love to hear his excuse for breaking his oath.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Dec 28, 2010 I doubt it
by: kathy W

Like I just said on my last comment I recently got a coupon in the local coupon envelope giving discounts on declawing for cats. I guess this new vet is disregarding his oath. I need to print this out and send it to him. Thanks

Dec 16, 2010 The Change is PR
by: Kathleen

Actually, I am fairly sure the words "prevention and relief of animal suffering" were in the original version of the oath as well, for all the good the oath does. 🙁 I agree with everyone here; the new wording sounds better and in theory is at least a START, but it will not be enforced any better than the original has been. I recently challenged a declawing vet to recite the Veterinarian's Oath for me, and he could not do so. He floundered around and actually tried to look it up in a book, and could not even find any kind of text in his office containing it. That is how much certain vets keep their oath in mind. I think he was rather flabbergasted to hear that someone as lowly as me was even aware there IS a veterinary oath! I do not know what has prompted the AVMA to reword it, but hopefully the news will reach more of the American public who may not know their vets take an oath to practice in a certain way. As for cat owners suing vets who cripple their cats, I think California may have to lead the way there as they do in so many issues. In most states of the US, lawsuits involving animal welfare can only be for the "market value" of the animal; not their well being or for their pain & suffering. 🙁

Dec 16, 2010 I don't think so
by: Carol

I'm afraid I have to agree with everyone else that the new words are very unlikely to stop declawing vets from putting their human clients wants before their patients welfare.
They will find a way round the 'prevention of suffering' as Barbara said probably through the words 'the promotion of public health'
The AVMA are pretty useless and only in it for the money.
I hope we are all wrong but I honestly can't see declawing stopping because of those new words.

Dec 16, 2010 Vets shouldnt need an oath
by: Edward

I dont see why someone who supposedly loves animals enough to train to look after them should even need to swear an oath not to make them suffer.I mean isnt being a vet about preventing bad health as best they can and curing the ill ones?
Im a simple man but it seems to me that vets who take cats toe ends off shouldnt really be doing that job.Why didnt they train to work in slaughterhouses if they like causing pain or as butchers if they like to chop up flesh.
I think its terrible that those vets choose to cripple cats in order to make money.
We arent vets but we know its wrong so Im damn sure they must know that as well.
I wish I had more time to help you all but as you know Im away a lot.

Dec 16, 2010 Thanks
by: Michael

Thanks for these great comments. Comments help a post to be found by Google and it encourages Google to place the article higher up in search results where people can find it, see it more and hopefully encourage them to change their ways.

Thanks Ruth for your help.

Michael Avatar

Dec 15, 2010 Me too
by: Kathryn

I agree too the money grabbing cat mutilators will ignore the new oath as much as they did the old one.
They know declawing causes cats to suffer but they don't care.All they want is to curry favour with ignorant clients who think declawing is great.That way they have a steady income from the chopping off toe ends conveyor belt.
I watched a declaw video,the vet nonchalantly chucking those healthy parts of the cat away.
He had obviously done it millions of times before and the excruciating sound of crunching bone and tearing flesh didn't bother him one bit.
I can only conclude that those vets hate cats.

Dec 15, 2010 Get out clause (no pun intended)
by: Barbara

I think the words in the oath that they fall back on to justify declawing are "the promotion of public health" because of course they accuse "kitties" of scratching babies, kids, old people, people with compromised immunity and dogs eyes and they use this to justify amputating their fingers. I think it's going to take more than a minor alteration to the oath to bring about a change in the declawing mentality.

Barbara avatar

Dec 15, 2010 An afterthought
by: Ruth

I wonder should we all bombard the AVMA with phone calls, letters and emails (depending which country we are in) asking if they plan to enforce the new oath and stop vets declawing.
Also bombard as many declaw vets as we can the same way stating that they surely must now stop declawing or they are breaking the part of the oath which says to 'prevent suffering'
We'd need lots of us to do it to make an impact.....
could we ???????
But another afterthought, is this newly worded oath only to be taken by newly qualified vets or do vets already practising have to re-swear their oath ?

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Dec 15, 2010 I don't think so
by: Rose

I don't think it will stop the vets who declaw.The old oath didn't and the new oath although a bit improved won't be enforced by the useless AVMA.
They firstly have to admit declawing causes suffering and I can't see them ever doing that,it makes them too many dollars!

Dec 15, 2010 It won't stop them
by: Elisa

They'll twist it around to mean what they want it to mean. When I read that I thought next the vets will say declawing is OK because it will PREVENT owners from turning their clawed cats into a shelter for wrecking the furniture. So they'll still see declawing as OK. After all, a shelter is SUFFERING and they're trying to PREVENT suffering.

What I don't understand is all the people who email me and tell me declawing keeps cats OUT of the shelter. I just don't know where they get their references from,

Even with my rescue work at the Greenville shelter, I notice the declawed cats on the euthanasia list are snatched up in a hurry. Guess there are still a lot of people out there who WANT cats who will have arthritis in their old age.

I really wish the new wording would make a difference. It's like anything else these days. A business to make money. A medical doctor will also take an oath and then do everything imaginable to make money. Vets will declaw as long as it's legal and there's money to be made. Right or wrong has nothing to do with it.

Dec 15, 2010 The Veterinarian's Oath
by: Maggie

To me, the veterinarian's oath is just a way of saying "you've graduated vet school". Once the graduation ceremony is over, the vets don't go off with determination to follow the oath. Once the oath is said, that's it.

In my opinion the oath is nothing, if it is so important then why do procedures occur such as declawing, descenting, dehorning, detoothing, devocalisation, tail docking, ear cropping and so on. How are all of those relevant to what's in the oath? They go against the oath!

The oath needs to be stressed to students prior to graduation and after graduation. From the minute they begin vet school they need to understand the oath, and they need to what procedures are unacceptable.

But then again, if that was the case the AVMA would lose a lot of money. They wouldn't be able to take advantage of ignorant selfish owners who are happy to mutilate their animals for their own convenience. There's no way they're going to pass up an easy buck. That's why they're so defensive in regard to declawing, despite their useless oath.

Dec 15, 2010 My thoughts
by: Ruth

Sorry to be so gloomy but I don't think it will make a scrap of difference to the greedy corrupt vets who still declaw cats.
The words 'prevention of animal suffering' are the key words really but the big problem is that declaw vets deny that declawing causes animal suffering. They deny it causes mental and physical suffering for the cats lifetime even though it's banned in many other countries and some Californian Cities for the very reason that it does cause cats to suffer.
Each and every cat in the world is anatomically the same and therefore each and every cat having 10(or 18)amputations must suffer the same consequences from it.
How can the declaw vets deny this ? How can the AVMA turn a blind eye to the suffering caused by
this ?
I wonder if someone took a vet to court because their cat's life was ruined by declawing they would win the case and set a precedent ? With so many things that can go wrong after declawing, would it scare other vets into stopping in case they were sued too ?
But I suppose they already have a contract for the client to sign absolving them of blame for anything going wrong with the surgery or afterwards and they'd just tighten that contract up.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Dec 14, 2010 Agreed
by: Michael

The AVMA is a toothless tiger as you say. It is worse that than. It promotes the idea that vets do care! The veterinarian's oath is used as a promotional tool to give the impression that vets in America maintain standards that are in compliance with the oath. This is misleading as clearly they do not comply with the oath.

Michael Avatar

Dec 14, 2010 Not a scrap of difference
by: Leah (England)

I don't think it will make any difference. The section that states 'declawing is an option only after other methods have been exhausted' (or words to that effect) is flounted every day! Kittens being declawed is a first resort, offering discounts is attracting declawing when someone may not have previously thought about it! Its been advertised as 'the best thing you can do for your cat' What!?

The AVMA is a toothless tiger and they will never do anything about this blatant disregard for the welfare of cats.

9 thoughts on “The Veterinarian’s Oath”

  1. Another vet who uses the same old excuse about cats being declawed or losing their homes.
    Strange how when challenged with the truth that many cats lose their homes after declawing we have no explanation from those vets as to why.
    Strange how while “trying so hard” to educate clients they declaw tiny kittens who could very easily be taught claw manners.
    Strange how they think causing cats pain and disablement by taking away their essential toe ends isn’t breaking their sworn oath to cause no animal to suffer.

  2. I came across your discussion while perusing the web for cat pictures. I am a mixed animal veterinarian but before I owned my own practice I worked as a shelter veterinarian for five years. My experience in the trenches was this; the death toll for cats and dogs in this country is an unimagined horror most people, including veterinarians, do not understand.

    Over half the cats admitted to shelters are destroyed. Before I worked on the frontline of animal suffering, I felt as you all did about declawing, and felt I had very high morals regarding the ethical treatment of animals. Once I was faced daily with the suffering of these millions, and those unsung hereos who try to stem the tide, I realized there is a lot of grey areas.

    I would disagree with the general comments here that veterinarians disregard our oath. Every one of my colleagues tries hard to educate clients, use alternative methods like soft paws, feliway, and other behaviour modification.

    Every veterinarian that I know declaws only as a last resort, and does everything possible to prevent pain and suffering for that patient. I believe there is a case to be made for declawing a cat that will otherwise lose their home, or be turned outside. I challenge everyone who posted on this discussion to work for one month at their local animal shelter and then see if they have the same conviction to condemn those of us who toil day to day trying to help animals.

    Sincerely, Dr. Francis.

    1. Thank you for visiting and commenting. It is very much appreciated. You know, if the vets did not declaw cats, cat owners would not ask vets to declaw their cats. And yes, those cats might end up in shelters and be killed. And then people would see the true scale of irresponsible cat ownership in the USA. By declawing cats you facilitate poor cat ownership. You perpetuate irresponsible cat caretaking and all its ramifications.

      It is time to add some rigour into the equation. You really must stand up and be counted and refuse to declaw. The old cliched excuse that declawing saves cat’s lives is tired out. Declawing insidiously, by the back door, undermines the value of the domestic cat. It encourages the belief that people can do as they please with the cat for their convenience even if is grossly against the welfare and health interests of the cat. Declawing undermines the ethic behind the cat/human relationship. It is a horrible perversion of what should happen, namely a loving, mutually supportive relationship.

      And declawing is plainly in breach of the veterinarian’s oath. All the vets of Europe would agree with that. Personally, I can never respect the American vet because they hurt cats in declawing them and then find a way to justify it. All you have to do is say no to a request to declaw. You don’t because you’ll lose business to some other vet nearby who will declaw. It is about profit. It has to be. American vets have lost their values. In watching some on videos it is clear how lost they are. They actually believe that declawing for non-therapeutic purposes is perfectly OK.

      Declawing is a complete blot on the veterinarian’s work. It is a total failure. The odd thing is that vets in the USA would probably make more money if they thought long term by promoting their image in genuinely thinking of the cat’s welfare by refusing to declaw.

    2. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

      If every one of your colleagues tries hard to educate clients as to the alternatives to the amputation of the cats last toe joints, then how come so many veterinarians advertise declawing with discount or declawing/neuter packages for kittens? It’s surely supposed to be a last resort surgery, not an easy get out for people too lazy to teach their kittens to use a scratching post. These people are not fit to have cats in their care and are more likely to relinquish them at the least excuse. How come some veterinarians make pro declaw videos and post them on You Tube and disable comments so that no one against declawing can point out the cruelty of it and the many possible physical/mental consequences to the cat? The only reason for promoting declawing is to make money, it’s obvious! I may be in the UK but I did Shelter data on the number of declawed cats relinquished to them, for 2 years, for a USA vet, we found that unrehomeable declawed cats killed on admission to Shelters were not even counted so the study was pointless! Why are the numbers of declawed cats relinquished with complications from the cruel surgery kept hidden?
      All veterinarians need to STOP declawing and start promoting neutering of all cats and start educating people that cats are living feeling beings, not possessions to be adapted, or discarded on any flimsy excuse to be killed through no fault of their own.

  3. I think it’s absolutely deplorable to take that oath,and then refuse to treat animals in an emergency situation. Not one vet in Sheboygan County, WI will voluteer for rotation to be on call for emergencies for animals in Sheboygan!!!!!!! My niece just went through a horrible event with her 15 yr old cat, on the night of the HUGE STORM in SHEBOYGAN. SHE CALLED HER VET, AND A RECORDING TOLD HER SHE HAD TO DRIVE TO PORT WASHINGTON (25-30 MILES)AWAY, IN HAIL,WIND AND POUNDING RAIN ALL ALONE TO GET HER YOWLING, HURTING ELDERLY CAT TREATED!!!!!!!!!! It makes me sick to my stomach, that these VETS would OPT OUT OF BEING ON ROTATION TO BE AVAILIABLE FOR EMERGENCIES AT NIGHT. HOW DARE THEY TAKE THAT OATH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BUT I GUESS IT’S OK, IT’S ONLY AN ANIMAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HOW COLD AND UNCARING CAN THEY BE!!!! FOR SHAME
    ON THEM, SHAME, SHAME ON THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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