The AVMA Executive Board acted on several recommendations from its Legislative Advisory Committee ranging from small business concerns to wildlife management when it met June 8-10 at AVMA headquarters.
The board approved a recommendation for the AVMA to actively pursue protecting veterinary interests, as reflected in AVMA policies, during reauthorization of the 2007 Farm Bill.
The farm bill is an omnibus, multi-year authorization law incorporating major farm and food legislation. Given the size and complexity of the 2007 bill, Congress has already begun the reauthorization process.
The farm bill is a "major piece of legislation that will impact the veterinary profession, animal health and welfare, and agriculture research programs," according to the LAC.
As a result, the committee recommended that the AVMA Governmental Relations Division "expend a high-priority application of human resources" to ensure the protection of veterinary interests.
The AVMA is supporting passage of the Agroterrorism Prevention Act (S. 1532), introduced by Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania in July 2005.
The legislation does several things, including amending federal law to criminalize agroterrorist acts, to provide for monitoring and intelligence enhancements, and to expand and continue vulnerability assessments of the agriculture and food sectors.
The AVMA GRD staff assisted the senator's staff in drafting the legislation, which is consistent with the AVMA policies of Animal Health and Emergency Planning and Training in Foreign and Emerging Diseases.
In a related item, the Executive Board approved support for the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. The legislation (H.R. 4239/S. 1926) broadens the definition of animal enterprise, increases penalties for causing economic disruption or damage, and addresses third-party targeting—a tactic by which terrorists target anyone who knows or does business with anyone involved in medical research.
The AVMA is supporting titles III and IV of H.R. 739, which would amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Title III, formerly H.R. 741, places the burden of proof on regulators with regard to Occupational Health and Safety Act violations by small businesses by forcing judges to more heavily weigh the conclusions of the OSHA review boards.
Title IV, formerly H.R. 742, makes easier the recovery of attorneys' fees by small-business owners for an unjustified enforcement action.
In addition, the Executive Board is supporting the Save Act (S. 160)—legislation that would provide for the expansion of tax credits for small-business contributions to Health Saving Accounts.
The AVMA is supporting the procurement of a $5 million appropriation in the 2008 federal budget for a national aquaculture program.
Veterinary Services, part of the Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is in the process of developing a National Aquatic Animal Health Plan in collaboration with the Commerce Department, National Marine Fisheries Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
To date, only $210,000 has been allocated for the program, which supports two full-time staff. Additional funds are needed if Veterinary Services is to implement the various activities to safeguard the nation's $1 billion aquaculture industry.
The AVMA is supporting the Global Health Corps Act. The legislation would establish the Office of the Global Health Corps within the Department of Health and Human Services. The office would assist in improving the health, welfare, and development of communities in foreign countries and regions through the provision of health care personnel, items, and related services.
The Legislative Advisory Committee recommended AVMA support for the bill (S. 850) because the legislation includes in its goals the provision and expansion of veterinary services in the developing world, and because of the unique experiences this legislation would provide for veterinary professionals.
The AVMA will not support passage of the Downed Animal Protection Act being considered in the House and Senate.
As written, the legislation (H.R. 3931/S. 1779) does not appropriately address nonambulatory, heat-stressed swine that most often recover with sufficient rest and cooling, and can then safely enter the food chain, according to the Legislative Advisory Committee.
Although the welfare of these animals is of concern, this concern is ameliorated by the fact that federal veterinarians and inspectors are present to enforce the Humane Slaughter Act, the committee continued.
At its spring 2006 meeting, the Animal Welfare Committee reviewed the legislation and also recommended nonsupport.
Wild horses and burros
The AVMA supports pursuing the use of a porcine zona pellucida immunocontraceptive vaccine to manage wild horses and burros.
Currently, there are some 32,000 wild horses and burros inhabiting public lands. That number is expected to grow by 20 percent annually.
During a recent meeting between the AVMA and Humane Society of the United States, the HSUS shared its research on a porcine zona pellucida contraceptive vaccine. At present, a two-year vaccine exists with an efficacy close to 90 percent, and a three-year vaccine exists with efficacies of approximately 93 percent, 83 percent, and 64 percent, for one, two, and three years, respectively, following treatment.
The AVMA and HSUS want to press for acceptance of the vaccine as a wild horse management tool.
The AVMA is seeking more information about a bill that would end the use of conventional steel-jawed leghold traps on animals.
The AVMA had initially supported the Inhumane Trapping Prevention Act (H.R. 3442). But the Executive Board approved a recommendation from the Legislative Advisory Committee to seek more information after the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians raised concerns about the legislation in a letter to the AVMA.
For example, the AAWV wrote that the bill fails to enumerate the multiple legitimate uses of leghold traps for wildlife management and research. Also, the bill doesn't distinguish between modified padded-jaw leghold traps, which can be used humanely and effectively in many species.
The AVMA Committee on Environmental Issues and Animal Welfare Committee requested that LAC recommend the AVMA change its position on the bill. During the next year, the committees will review the AVMA policy on trapping and its impact on the welfare of wild animals and on the current needed trapping practices within the wildlife community.
The Executive Board approved a recommendation from the LAC to add a new position to the current eight-person Governmental Relations Division. Given the AVMA's aggressive legislative agenda, the LAC was concerned that the GRD will not have the appropriate resources to deal with the federal farm bill.
Additionally, the board approved a 3 percent increase in the annual stipend for AVMA Congressional Science and Executive Branch Fellows in 2008. The stipend was raised to $65,000 in 2006. Beginning in 2008, the stipend will be $66,950.