Veterinary student leaders take key messages to Capitol Hill

February 2012

By Rhondalee Dean-Royce, communications manager of the AVMA GRD

Student leaders from across the country traveled to Washington, D.C. this month to tackle issues related to the Fairness to Pet Owners Act and the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act during the fourth annual AVMA Student Legislative Fly-in, hosted by the AVMA's Governmental Relations Division (GRD) Feb. 12-14th.

At the two-day meeting, AVMA GRD staff provided briefings on current issues facing the veterinary medical profession on Capitol Hill. The fly-in also included training designed to explain how lobbying works, the role advocates play in the federal government and the important role veterinarians play in shaping public policy.

"These students are the AVMA's future leaders. We appreciate the time they took out of their busy schedules to come to Washington to learn more about how they can influence public policy," said Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, AVMA GRD director. "Their Capitol Hill visits helped educate Members of Congress and their staffs about critical issues facing the veterinary profession. We hope that they become "Advocacy Evangelists" and recruit their classmates, teachers and veterinarian colleagues to become Congressional Advocacy Network members and advocate on behalf of the AVMA and veterinary profession."

Tara Southwell, state policy analyst for AVMA's State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department within the Communications Division, discussed several major legislative issues being debated on the state level, while former AVMA Congressional Fellow Dr. Doug Meckes discussed the ins and outs of working on Capitol Hill, and how he went from AVMA Congressional Fellow to leading the Food, Agriculture and Veterinary Defense Branch of the Department of Homeland Security.

On the second day of the fly-in, the students had the opportunity to meet with Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.), one of the AVMA's most strident champions in Congress. Rep. Smith emphasized to the students the importance of grassroots advocacy and developing a personal relationship with their congressional offices. He discussed his positions on key AVMA legislative priorities, and stressed the importance of playing an active role in the profession's advocacy efforts at the state and national levels.

After visiting with Rep. Smith and enjoying the beautiful views of the Capitol from the House Agriculture hearing room, the students utilized their newly learned advocacy skills and took to Capitol Hill to discuss H.R. 1406 Fairness to Pet Owners Act and H.R. 2492/S. 1947 Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act. Click here to view pictures from the two-day event. The AVMA would like to thank Elanco for its support of the Student Legislative Fly In.

For more information please contact Rhondalee Dean-Royce, communications manager, AVMA Governmental Relations Division.

The AVMA Advocate - News Bites - February 2012