January 15, 2005


 AVMA tackles animal welfare legislation

Posted Jan. 1, 2005

In the next year, the AVMA will spend a substantial amount of time lobbying for animal welfare issues. At its recent meeting, the Executive Board voted on several initiatives involving the welfare of horses, commercially slaughtered species, dogs, large cats, and animals that can poisoned by antifreeze.

The board approved active pursuit of defeat for the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, because of the potential for the bill to negatively affect horse welfare. It also authorized $5,000 for dues to the Horse Welfare Coalition, which is working to defeat the act as written, and is interested in pursuing alternate solutions to the problem of unwanted horses. The coalition's mission is to promote humane and responsible care of horses through education and national policy advocacy. As a member of the steering committee overseeing the organizational management of the coalition, the AVMA plays an essential role in helping the coalition meet its mission and objectives. The funding will be used for internal and external communications, grassroots support, and direct lobbying by the coalition.

The board also voted to actively pursue an amendment to the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act that would update the act to include all species slaughtered for commercial use under federal inspection. Currently, the act mandates humane slaughter for cows, pigs, sheep, and other livestock slaughtered at federally inspected facilities, but does not include birds, rabbits, and other commercially slaughtered species.

The Puppy Protection Act was also addressed. The AVMA will not support this legislation if the 108th Congress version is reintroduced in the 109th Congress. The AVMA will support the development of legislation that effectively deals with the welfare issues associated with puppy mills.

The board voted down a recommendation to support the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act of 2004. The act would set up a fund to assist in the conservation of rare felids and rare canids, which face a variety of threats, including habitat degradation, loss of natural prey, intentional and unintentional takings by humans, and disease transmission. The board voted against supporting it because of the act's inclusion of the gray wolf. The gray wolf is a predator of livestock in certain parts of the country and could pose a problem for AVMA members, commented Dr. R. Tracy Rhodes, AVMA Executive Board member representing District IX.

The final piece of animal welfare legislation that the Executive Board considered was the Antifreeze Safety Act. This act would require engine coolant and antifreeze to contain a bittering agent. Although the AVMA initially lobbied for passage of this act, the board now recommends gathering more information, because of questions about the efficacy of denatonium benzoate as a bittering agent, and the environmental fate of denatonium benzoate and its byproducts. Until it has more information, the AVMA will not take a position on the act, should it be reintroduced in the 109th Congress.