A Note From Dr. Vannevel

posted: by: Janice Vannevel, DVM Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Many people have heard of the 5 freedoms.  These are things that animals and people should always have such as Freedom from hunger and thirst, from discomfort, from pain, injury or disease, to express normal behavior and freedom from fear.  I always like to think of these freedoms in more positive terms such as free to have good nutrition in appropriate amounts, clean fresh water, etc. So I was happy to read in a vet clinics journal this month that the San Diego Zoo also thinks this way.  They have written out the five freedoms similar to this

-Opportunity for a well-balanced diet (fresh water and a suitable species-specific diet will be provided in a way that ensures full health and vigor, both behaviorally and physically

-Opportunity to self-maintain (that is an appropriate environment including shelter and species-specific substrates.)

-Opportunity for optimal health (this related to supportive environments to encourage healthy behaviors and also rapid diagnosis and treatment of injury or disease)

-Opportunity to express species-specific behavior (there is enough space and appropriate groupings of animals for social development and health)

-Opportunities for choice and control (providing conditions so animals can exercise some control over their environment)

I really like their inclusion of choice and some control over their environmentClicker training and positive reinforcement enables animals to choose to help us in meeting their behavior and health care needs.  I have seen animals trained to present their vein and hold still for blood collection. They are free to move away if they want yet choose to stay still.  My own horse at one point of time was bucking when I tried to mount him at the mounting block. Traditional training would have had me punish this behavior.  Instead, by acknowledging he had a choice - he could buck if he wanted and I would ignore that behavior, but if he stood still he would be rewarded we were able to easily solve the issue.  With a clicker and a few carrots within a few minutes I had a horse that stood steady at the mounting block and was happy to do so and he still likes me and I still like him.