CVMA | Documents | Animals in Sport and Competition - Position Statement
CVMA-ACMV

Animals in Sport and Competition - Position Statement

July 16, 2019

The CVMA has developed two position papers entitled Animals in Sport and Competition and Animals in Entertainment and the Arts. Although superficially there could appear to be overlap between the scope of the two documents, in that humans watch sport for entertainment, the critical difference is the animals’ activity in these two situations. When considering the animal welfare implications of an activity, it is what the animals do and experience that matters. The risks to the welfare of the animals are markedly different when they are used for sport and competition, and when they are used for entertainment or in the arts. The entertainment position is meant to address, for example, animals performing in a circus or on a film stage. The Sport and Competition position would cover dogs running in a dog sled race or horses on a track. Some activities such as a traveling rodeo will need to be looked at through the lens of both position statements. Definitions of “entertainment” and “sport and competition” are not included within the position statements as there are no agreed-upon definitions in the literature.

Position

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) accepts the humane and ethical use of animals in competition and sport. The CVMA strongly supports progressive implementation of strategies to mitigate risks involved with the care and management of animals used in sport and competition, to promote sound physical, social and psychological health and well-being of the animal, and to find alternatives which end avoidable harm and suffering.

Summary

  • Animal health and welfare is paramount with respect to the use of animals in sport and competition.
  • All animals used in sport and competition should receive veterinary oversight and timely care by suitably experienced veterinarians.
  • The CVMA requires that the animals’ long-term welfare be considered before being obtained for use in sport or competition, extending to the development of a retirement plan. Every effort should be made to either re-purpose or re-home animals unsuitable for sporting or competitive events. Euthanasia should be considered as an option only when there are significant welfare or on-going care issues.
  • The CVMA strongly supports research on the health and welfare implications of sport and competition usage extending to and including training and the associated life cycle of usage.
  • The CVMA strongly advocates for the continued development and adoption of national standards and policies for the housing, management, husbandry, training, transport, and biosecurity of animals used in competition and sport.
  • The CVMA strongly advocates for continuing education to ensure that animals are attended by skilled and knowledgeable personnel.

Background

1. The CVMA recognizes that welfare concerns can arise over the use of animals in sport and competition particularly when physical, social or behavioural demands or the duration of the demands imposed on the animals lie outside species or individual norms, and capacities for performance and uneventful recovery.

  • Animals used in sport and competition are exposed to a range of potential welfare issues that are specific to their use, and which otherwise would not occur to the same extent if they were not used for these purposes. These issues can arise during events, training for events, and as a result of their management between events (1).
  • The physiological and physical responses to excessive exercise can predispose animals to heat stress, dehydration, musculoskeletal damage, and fatigue (2-4).
  • Events that take place in extreme environmental conditions can also predispose animals to distress, and health issues (5,6).
  • The fitness of animals (health and physiological capacity) to compete is an important factor in avoiding the development of welfare issues.

2. Events that require animals to perform physical tasks involving agility (7,8) can predispose animals to injury and suffering as can physical, surgical, or chemical interventions to improve performance, or aid in training. Such interventions run contrary to animal health and welfare unless performed for therapy and rehabilitation under veterinary care and supervision (9-12). Risk of injury, suffering, illness and distress must be mitigated during training, sport and competition (2,13), and every opportunity must be provided for the expression of normal behaviour in the rest periods between training, sporting, and competition events.

3. Adequate human and veterinary resources must be made available at each stage of the development and use of performance animals, and such human resources must be educated to recognize, intervene, and mitigate health and welfare issues.

4. The CVMA strongly supports housing, husbandry, training, and performance practices that promote and meet the species-specific physical, nutritional, behavioral and social needs of the animal, and discourages the use of animals unsuitable by species, breed, or temperament for competitive sport activities.

5. The CVMA endorses the use of animal equipment that does no harm (14), is in good working order, is suitable for the intended use, conforms to species and breed conformation, and is compliant with regulatory requirements.

6. The CVMA recommends that animals used in sport and competition be bred, housed, fed, raised, habituated, and trained as well as selected for suitability for the intended sport and competitive activity (15). In the breeding to retirement life cycle, animals must receive veterinary oversight and timely care by suitably experienced veterinarians. Animal health and welfare standards compliant with national and industry codes of practice should be applied.

7. In all areas where animals are housed, bred, trained or used in sport and competition, humane and ethical treatment must be paramount, and animals must be handled and treated, respectfully.

  • Training methods should be based on positive reinforcement, which emphasizes normal behaviour (16-17). Acclimation, habituation and training - including exposure to novel situations by systematic desensitization - can decrease stress associated with sport and competition (18).
  • The indiscriminate and non-therapeutic use of drugs or non-nutritive agents to alter or enhance training or performance, or procedures or equipment that alter the conformation, appearance or function of animals used in sport or competition are unacceptable and ought to be prohibited.
  • Compliance with requirements regarding the use of drugs, nutritional, non-nutritive supplements, and otherwise prohibited compounds and products is required to satisfy association, national and international regulatory agency requirements (19-22). This enables fair dealing in sport and competition, and safeguards not only the health and welfare of performance animals, but also that of their care givers and human performance partners.
  • Periods of training, performance and exposure to sporting and competitive events should be limited to timeframes that support good health and psychological fitness. Animals must be given opportunity for adequate or, preferably, self-directed rest to ensure optimal recovery from physically and psychologically demanding sporting or competitive events.

8. The CVMA requires that the animals’ long-term welfare be considered before being obtained for use in sport or competition, extending to the development of a retirement plan. Consideration should be given to whether very young or very old animals are suitable. Every effort should be made to re-purpose or re-home animals found unsuitable for sporting or competitive events by virtue of health, age or temperament, but otherwise judged to be in good health. Euthanasia should be considered as an option only when there are significant welfare or on-going care issues. Euthanasia as a means to address the situation where an animal can no longer perform at a competitive level should be employed only where circumstances preclude animal retraining, repurposing, rehoming or retirement. The welfare of the animal is paramount in all decision-making.

9. The CVMA strongly supports the development of animal health and welfare criteria designed to:

  • identify problems during training; or during sporting and competition events;
  • disqualify or remove unfit animals before or during sporting, or competition events;
  • impose time-limited or lifetime prohibition, or retirement of animals from sport or competition (23-26).

10. Sporting bodies are encouraged to (a) keep records of deaths, injuries and health issues that arise in their sport (during events and training), and to report on these to their organizational bodies so as to enhance not only animal welfare and safety but also human health; (b) maintain a record of medications used; and (c) work with veterinary advisors to mitigate welfare issues that arise (19,27-30).

11. Conformity with infectious disease control protocols (prevention, housing, quarantine, treatment, recovery, and clearance assurance) is essential when individual animals and populations of animals mix during sporting and competitive events. Biosecurity protocols must be followed by both participants and event organizers to avoid, or minimize the spread of infectious diseases.

12. Conformity with national and international regulations concerning the movement of animals must be incorporated into sport, and competition management plans, whether as participants or event organizers, and sport and competition associations.

13. The CVMA strongly advocates for the continued development and adoption of animal welfare standards compliant with national codes of practice for the housing, training, management, husbandry, and transport of animals used in sport or competition (19). Periodic external third-party review and assurance of animal welfare standards is recommended.

References

  1. Horseman SV, Buller H, Mullan S, Whay HR. Current welfare problems facing horses in Great Britain as identified by equine stakeholders. PLoS ONE 2016;11. Available from: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0160269 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  2. Clegg PD. Musculoskeletal disease and injury, now and in the future. Part 1: Fractures and fatalities. Equine Vet J 2011;43:643-649. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.2042-3306.2011.00457.x Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  3. Clegg PD. Musculoskeletal disease and injury, now and in the future. Part 2: Tendon and ligament injuries. Equine Vet J 2012;44:371-375. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.2042-3306.2012.00563.x Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  4. Frazier DL. Who speaks for the horse--the sport of endurance riding and equine welfare. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;216:1258-1261. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10767965 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  5. Davis M, Williamson K, McKenzie E, Royer C, Payton M, Nelson S. Effect of training and rest on respiratory mechanical properties in racing sled dogs. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2005;37:337-341. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15692332 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  6. Jeffcott LB, Kohn CW. Contributions of equine exercise physiology research to the success of the 1996 Equestrian Olympic Games: a review. Equine Vet J. Suppl 1999;30:347-355. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10659281 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  7. Birch E, Boyd J, Doyle G, Pullen A. The effects of altered distances between obstacles on the jump kinematics and apparent joint angulations of large agility dogs. Vet J 2015;204:174-178. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25841897 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  8. Pfau T, Garland De Rivaz A, Brighton S, Weller R. Kinetics of jump landing in agility dogs. Vet J 2011;190:278-283. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21093327 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  9. Evans D, McGreevy P. An investigation of racing performance and whip use by jockeys in thoroughbred races. PLoS ONE 2011;6:e15622. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3026808/ Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  10. McLean AN, McGreevy PD. Horse-training techniques that may defy the principles of learning theory and compromise welfare. J Vet Behav: Clinical Applications and Research 2010;5:187-195. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1558787810000626 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  11. Soma LR, Uboh CE, Maylin GM. The use of phenylbutazone in the horse. J Vet Pharmacol Therap 2012;35:1-12. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2885.2011.01299.x Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  12. Van Hoogmoed LM, Snyder JR. Use of infrared thermography to detect injections and palmar digital neurectomy in horses. Vet J 2002;164:129-141. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12359467 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  13. Campbell MLH. When does use become abuse in equestrian sport? Equine Vet Educ 2013;25:489-492. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/eve.12087 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  14. Dyson S, Greve L. Saddles and girths: What is new? Vet J 2016;207:73-79. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090023315002683 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  15. Bartolomé E, Cockram MS. Potential effects of stress on the performance of sport horses. J Equine Vet Sci 2016;40:84-93. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0737080615300721 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  16. McGreevy PD. The advent of equitation science. Vet J 2007;174:492-500. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17157542 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  17. Rooney NJ, Cowan S. Training methods and owner–dog interactions: Links with dog behaviour and learning ability. Appl Anim Behav Sci 2011;132:169-177. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159111000876 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  18. Pastore C, Pirrone F, Balzarotti F, Faustini M, Pierantoni L, Albertini M. Evaluation of physiological and behavioral stress-dependent parameters in agility dogs. J Vet Behav: Clinical Applications and Research 2011;6:188-194. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1558787811000037 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  19. Atock MA, Williams RB. Welfare of competition horses. Rev Sci Tech 1994;13:217-232. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8173097 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  20. Equestrian Canada. Equestrian Canada Rules. Available from: https://www.equestrian.ca/programs-services/rules Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  21. Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI). Available from: https://inside.fei.org/ Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  22. Toutain PL. Veterinary medicines and competition animals: the question of medication versus doping control. Comparative and Veterinary Pharmacology 2010:315-339. Available from: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-642-10324-7_13 Last accessed June 17, 2019.
  23. Munsters CCBM, van dB, Welling E, van Weeren R, Sloet van Oldruitenborgh-Oosterbaan MM. A prospective study on a cohort of horses and ponies selected for participation in the European Eventing Championship: Reasons for withdrawal and predictive value of fitness tests. BMC Vet Res 2013;9:182. Available from: https://bmcvetres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1746-6148-9-182 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  24. Nagy A, Dyson SJ, Murray JK. A veterinary review of endurance riding as an international competitive sport. Vet J 2012;194:288-293. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22819800 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  25. Nagy A, Murray JK, Dyson SJ. Horse-, rider-, venue- and environment-related risk factors for elimination from Fédération Équestre Internationale endurance rides due to lameness and metabolic reasons. Equine Vet J 2014;46:294-299. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24033509 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  26. Sloet van Oldruitenborgh-Oosterbaan, MM, Genzel W, van Weeren PR. A pilot study on factors influencing the career of Dutch sport horses. Equine Vet J 2010;42:28-32. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.2042-3306.2010.00251.x Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  27. Campbell MLH. The role of veterinarians in equestrian sport: A comparative review of ethical issues surrounding human and equine sports medicine. Vet J 2013;197:535-540. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23773811 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  28. Dennis MM, Nelson SN, Cantor GH, Mosier DA, Blake JE, Basaraba RJ. Assessment of necropsy findings in sled dogs that died during Iditarod Trail sled dog races: 23 cases (1994-2006). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2008;232:564-573. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18279094 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  29. Hill WT. Survey of injuries in Thoroughbreds at The New York Racing Association tracks. Clinical Techniques in Equine Practice; Lameness in Racehorses 2003;2:323-328. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1534751604000095 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  30. Williams RB, Harkins LS, Hammond CJ, Wood JLN. Racehorse injuries, clinical problems and fatalities recorded on British racecourses from flat racing and National Hunt racing during 1996, 1997 and 1998. Equine Vet J 2001;33:478-486. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.2746/042516401776254808 Last accessed May 29, 2018.
  31. Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, Position Statement on Euthanasia. Available from: https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/euthanasia. Last accessed June 11, 2019.

(Adopted June 2019)