Promoting quality of life discussions between the veterinary profession and the pet-owning public
Because it is the pet-owning public that normally provides the day-to-day care for companion animals, maintaining or improving standards in animal welfare is best achieved by engaging owners in the debate over an individual animal's quality of life (QoL). Veterinary practice teams (including veterinary surgeons and nurses) are in an ideal position to promote discussion of pets' QoL, as most owners respect and value their opinion. As well as educating each new generation of animal carers on appropriate husbandry, the veterinary profession can engage the pet-owning public in the scientific process of QoL assessment and the related debates concerning definitions of welfare and QoL. QoL assessment is a complex process with many influencing factors. The structure of an assessment will depend upon its purpose, which may be research, legislation, a certification scheme or, probably most usefully, a management tool to facilitate clinical decision-making. The process of completing a QoL assessment within a clinical environment may result in positive changes in human behaviour towards animals irrespective of the actual result of the assessment. This influence on human behaviour is a key test of validity for formal assessment systems that are designed to improve QoL.
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