CVMA Position Statement on Ballot Initiative 16 (PAUSE Initiative)

CVMA Position Statement on Ballot Initiative 16 (PAUSE Initiative)

Adopted by the CVMA Board of Directors May 27, 2021

The Colorado Veterinary Medical Association strongly opposes Ballot Initiative 16, also known as the PAUSE Initiative. Every veterinarian takes an oath to protect animal health and welfare, prevent and relieve animal suffering, promote public health, and advance medical knowledge. Initiative 16 threatens all those commitments. On behalf of CVMA’s 2,200+ veterinarian members and the hundreds of thousands of animals they care for, CVMA urges all veterinarians to stand up for animals and oppose this initiative.

Ballot Initiative 16 is not in the best interests of any animal in Colorado, and if approved by voters in 2022, the initiative will cause lasting damage to animal health and public health in Colorado. Colorado veterinarians are a community of caring doctors dedicated to protecting animal welfare: their physical and mental health; and quality of care for animals. Our veterinary community is gravely concerned about the significant harm this initiative would have on Colorado’s animals.

CVMA encourages all Colorado veterinarians to be well-informed on this initiative, and to share its adverse impacts to animals with animal owners. CVMA is engaging with other groups that oppose the initiative and will issue regular updates.

Ballot Initiative 16 proposes four significant changes to the Cruelty Act:

  1. Includes livestock in the Cruelty Act and removes existing protection for standard animal husbandry practices from the Cruelty Act.
  2. Expands the definition of sexual abuse of an animal, therefore making neutering/castrating animals and artificial insemination a criminal offense.
  3. Sets arbitrary lifespans of livestock and criminalizes slaughter of animals at the age when quality meat is most often produced.
  4. Overrides or criminalizes numerous laws in Colorado and other western states, including: the Colorado Veterinary Practice Act and the required veterinarian-client-patient relationship; laws that govern livestock production; laws and regulations of other western states regarding disease testing of livestock before shipment to those states, making it impossible to ship livestock outside Colorado.

Ballot Initiative 16 is deceptive and misleading.

The Ballot Initiative 16 website claims the measure is intended to extend existing animal abuse laws for companion animals to farmed animals. The animal rights measure is ill-defined, incomplete, and would have far-reaching negative results for the care of dogs, cats, horses, and production of livestock in Colorado.

What does Ballot Initiative 16 do from a veterinary care perspective?

  1. Makes neutering/castrating dogs, cats, livestock, and horses a criminal offense.

Veterinarians are well-respected and can help people understand that neutering and castrating male animals is done for many reasons other than “in the interest of improving the animal’s health” as the initiative requires.

  • Dogs and cats are often neutered to reduce pet overpopulation, and to reduce marking, roaming, aggression, as well as to make them easier to train and more desirable companions.
  • Stallions and colts are castrated to make them more manageable, easier to train, and to reduce the population of unwanted horses.
  • Bulls are castrated to prevent reproduction, simplify management, and to improve tenderness of the finished beef.

The resulting dog and cat overpopulation would increase companion animal suffering.

  • Neutering animals would be a criminal offense.
  • Owners would be unable to have male pets neutered in most circumstances, and many undesirable behaviors would not be prevented.
  • Difficulty in training “intact” pets often results in broken human-animal bond and animal suffering.
  • More animals would be abandoned, relinquished and the number of roaming animals would increase, along with pet overpopulation, and disease.
  • Veterinarians, including those working in animal shelters, could be prosecuted for performing these common surgeries.

Livestock production and equine management would experience negative repercussions.

  • Castration of male livestock, horses, and some zoo animals would be a criminal offense.
  • Ranchers, horse owners, zookeepers, and veterinarians would face increased safety concerns working with uncastrated, unmanageable livestock and equines.
  • Lack of castration for horses would lead to untrainable animals that get passed from home to home, leading to a break in the human-animal bond.
  1. Makes artificial insemination and many other reproductive procedures of dogs, cats, horses, and livestock a criminal offense. Livestock, equine, and canine artificial insemination is utilized worldwide to build genetic diversity and quality.

This would restrict the availability of many types of service dogs as well as other working dogs, and thereby harm the people who rely on them.

  • Many service and working dog programs use artificial insemination to selectively breed for aptitudes and temperaments that will be beneficial in assistance and work settings.
  • Common artificial insemination of service and working dogs would be classified as “sexual act with an animal” and would be considered animal cruelty.
  • This would mean that veterinarians and others could be prosecuted for breeding service and working dogs.
  • This would result in fewer service and working dogs available to help the people who rely on them.

Increase injury to large animals by requiring natural cover breeding process for reproduction in lieu of artificial insemination; additionally, this would increase the danger to humans who facilitate these breeding processes.

  • Common artificial insemination practices for breeding of large animals such as horses, cattle, and swine would be classified as “sexual act with an animal” and would be considered animal cruelty.
  • These large animals would need to be bred via “natural cover” systems, also known as “hand breeding” or “hand mating.”
  • Natural cover, hand breeding, or hand mating systems increase the risk of: Serious bite and kick injuries, broken legs, permanent damage to animals’ genitals, and infectious disease transmission. This would increase animal suffering, injury, and death.
  • Additionally, this would increase the physical risk to veterinarians, ranchers, and farmers during these breeding interactions.
  1. Will increase suffering among farmed animals because it requires many animals to live twice as long; will also dramatically increase meat prices for consumers.

Farmed animal pain can be caused by many things, such as disease, infectious agents, injury, mastitis, poor conformation, and lameness, among others.

  • The initiative does not account for age-related suffering of farmed animals; animals are likely to develop more painful conditions as they age.
  • Farmed animals are purpose-bred for production and requiring them to live longer and in pain is inherently cruel.
  • The initiative could prevent or criminalize humane euthanasia for severe injury, or zoonotic and other serious disease among herds or flocks of farmed animals that are younger than the permitted age of slaughter.

With animals living longer on farms and taking up more space, there will be fewer animals available to satisfy consumer demand for meat.

  • Consumers would experience increased meat prices.
  • Low income consumers would have fewer protein sources accessible to them due to higher meat prices.
  • Consumers would experience decreased meat quality resulting from animals that are aged past their prime for meat production.

For more information about the impacts of Ballot Initiative 16, visit CVMA’s PAUSE webpage and Coloradans for Animal Care.