Now that the election season is over, Congress has turned its focus to key issues that must be solved before the end of the year, or early in 2013. These include incredibly controversial issues such as the so-called fiscal cliff, sequestration, and tax reform. The Governmental Relations Division (GRD) continues to work diligently to ensure programs important to veterinary medicine receive sufficient funding and that legislation detrimental to animal health or welfare is opposed.
The 112th Congress saw many animal welfare issues rise to the forefront of both AVMA members’ and the public’s awareness. While many were issues that have been heavily debated for years, including horse slaughter, humane treatment of nonambulatory livestock, chimpanzee use in research, and horse transportation safety, Congress also began to take an active interest in new areas.
Soring and the Horse Protection Act
In September we saw the introduction of H.R. 6388 comprising amendments to the Horse Protection Act. ‘Soring’ is the unethical and illegal practice of deliberately inflicting pain to exaggerate the leg motion of high-gaited horses, such as Tennessee Walking Horses, to gain an unfair advantage in the show ring. Despite being illegal for more than 40 years, we are still seeing walking horses being sored at an alarming rate. The AVMA has come out in strong support of H.R. 6388 and is urging its members to contact their Congressman/woman and ask them to co-sponsor the bill. See the AVMA’s resources on soring and take action!
Layer Hen and Sow Housing
Twenty twelve has also focused increased attention on the housing of livestock. In January we saw a landmark bill introduced that would create a national standard for the housing and treatment of layer hens. H.R. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments, was introduced by Congressman and veterinarian Kurt Schrader, and was the result of an agreement between the United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States. The AVMA supports this legislation and expects it will be reintroduced next Congress, pending passage of the Farm bill. Gestation housing of sows also garnered national attention over the past year, despite the absence of a legislative proposal. Since McDonald’s announced in February that it will be requiring its suppliers to phase out gestation stalls, we’ve seen dozens of other retailers follow suit. The AVMA’s policy on pregnant sow housing can be viewed here.
Therapeutic Medication in Racehorses
Also introduced was legislation aimed at controlling medication use in racehorses. H.R. 1733/S. 886, the Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act of 2011, would amend the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 to prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs on race day. AVMA opposes this legislation because of its extremely broad definition of performance-enhancing drug, lack of authorization for appropriations, and concerns that the Federal Trade Commission does not have the expertise required to enforce the bill’s provisions.
Interest in animal welfare is likely to continue when the 113th Congress convenes in January. Members of Congress are hearing more often from their constituents, which in turn is causing them to take action. You can view summaries of all of the AVMA’s positions on federal animal welfare-related legislation here.
The following animal welfare-related bills have been signed into law since the May 2012 issue of Welfare Focus:
In May, California AB 2304 failed to make it out of committee. This legislation would have removed certain cosmetic dental procedures from the definition of veterinary medicine by allowing pet groomers to use non-motorized instruments to remove calculus, soft deposits, plaque or stains from an exposed area of an animal's tooth above the gum line, provided that the service is performed exclusively for cosmetic purposes and the person performing the service first obtains written permission from the person requesting the service.
The New Hampshire Agriculture, Markets and Food Department issued new rules, Agr 3700, to assure the adequate treatment of horses and other equine species, including regular foot care and maintenance, regular tooth care, shelter, exercise, feeding and penalties.
In New Mexico, the Animal Sheltering Board amended its regulations of the Animal Sheltering Act, including the definition of "veterinary clinic" and licensing requirements for euthanasia technicians and agencies. New language states that the identity of each animal to be euthanized must be determined with certainty beforehand and verification obtained that the animal is properly designated for the procedure.
Following the release of dozens of exotic and wildlife animals last fall, Ohio has amended section 1533.71 of the Revised Code, prohibiting acquisition and possession of dangerous wild animals and certain snakes as of Jan. 1, 2014, with special provisions for shelter and wildlife permits, providing temporary veterinary care, zoos, sanctuaries and research institutions. Current owners will be allowed to keep their animals but with restrictions.
At its annual meeting, the AVMA House of Delegates approved the final piece of the 2012 revisions to the association’s Model Veterinary Practice Act, a document used by state legislators and regulatory bodies for guidance on appropriate oversight of veterinary medicine. The House approved recommendations from the task force, with the definition of VCPR in the model act now slightly different from that embodied in federal regulation (21 CFR 530.3(i)) relating to extralabel drug use. The new definition of “patient” as “an animal or group of animals,” makes it clear that the requirement of VCPR applies to individual animals as well as a group or groups of animals within an operation or production system. A new subsection was added to state that patient records must be maintained to establish a VCPR.
Pennsylvania Public Act 182 details acceptable and unacceptable methods of euthanasia and provides for euthanasia technician certification. The legislation states that decompression chambers, carbon monoxide gas from any source and drowning are no longer considered acceptable methods of euthanasia in the state. In addition, methods or agents that are deemed as unacceptable in the current version of the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia are also prohibited.
The AVMA posted a summary of the various veterinary practice and animal health issues state lawmakers considered through August on its website. A more comprehensive topic- by- topic review of the bills and regulations tracked by the AVMA is also available. The summary will be updated at year-end.
The AVMA’s Legislative Advisory Committee and State Advocacy Committee work closely with its Animal Welfare Committee to review proposals addressing animal welfare. For more information on the latest bills and regulations pending around the country, view resources compiled by our Governmental Relations Division and Department of State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs or contact Dr. Whitney Miller, Assistant Director, Governmental Relations Division (for federal issues) or Mr. Adrian Hochstadt, Assistant Director, Communications Division, State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs (for state issues).