It was reported in the May, 15, 2007, JAVMA News that the Executive Board had identified a number of legislative initiatives as high priorities that the AVMA would work to help either pass or defeat. That agenda includes other bills the board believes the AVMA should go on record as supporting or opposing.
The Legislative Advisory Committee recommended, and the board approved, that the AVMA support the following:
- A proposal (S.1094/H.R. 2118) combining several federal agencies dealing with research and agriculture into a single entity known as the National Institutes for Food and Agriculture. The Creating Research, Extension, and Teaching Excellence for the 21st Century plan would bring together the Agricultural Research Service, the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, Economic Research Service, and the Forestry Service into a single, super-agency reporting directly to the secretary of Agriculture. Bringing together these independent agencies would eliminate program duplications, integrate the intramural and extramural programs, and reduce budgetary and operating inefficiencies.
- The New Markets for State-Inspection Meat and Poultry Act (S. 1150) and two bills—H.R. 1760/S. 1149—that would remove the prohibitions on state-inspected meat and poultry products shipped interstate.
- Legislation that would reform the alternative minimum tax to stop an increase in taxes paid by middle-income earners, which includes many veterinarians. The individual AMT was originally designed to limit the amount of tax sheltering that high-income taxpayers could pursue and to ensure that these filers paid taxes. The current AMT, however, has strayed from those initial goals because it wasn't pegged to inflation. Under current law, the tax will affect more than 23 million taxpayers in 2007, mainly for reasons that have little or nothing to do with what most people would consider tax sheltering. The number of persons subject to the AMT will rise dramatically unless a legislative remedy is not offered.
- The Small Business Tax Fairness and Simplification Act (H.R. 46), which amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow the self-employed to participate in cafeteria pension plans and long-term care insurance under as well as other benefits. The bill will affect AVMA members, many of whom are small business owners.
- The Generating Opportunity by Forgiving Educational Debt for Service Act (S. 1047) would eliminate income and Social Security taxes on loan repayments for federal government employees. Federal veterinarians participating in the National Veterinary Medical Service Act loan repayment program would directly benefit from passage of this bill.
- The Rural Economic Development and Opportunities Act (H.R. 603), which would amend the Internal Revenue Code so that an employer could claim a five-year work opportunity tax credit for hiring employees living in a rural area and performing services for such an employer in a rural area. The bill would help rural veterinary practices and the businesses they serve.
- The Dog and Cat Fur Prohibition Enforcement Act (H.R. 891), which amends the Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000 to ensure that domestic dog and cat fur is prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, or advertised in the United States, and which would require the labeling of all fur products under the Fur Products Labeling Act. The legislation further defines "dog" to be any species commonly known as domestic dog, including raccoon dog, and "cat" to be any species commonly known as domestic cat.
- The Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act (H.R. 741), which provides for the expansion of federal efforts concerning the activities related to Lyme and other tickborne diseases, including establishment of a Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee.
- The Captive Primate Safety Act, which is expected to be introduced soon and would amend the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 to treat nonhuman primates as prohibited wildlife species. The legislation, supported by the AVMA in the previous Congress, would make it illegal to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase via interstate or foreign commerce any prohibited wildlife species. Accredited wildlife sanctuaries, licensed wildlife rehabilitators, and certain other persons and agencies would be exempt under the law.
- Haley's Act (H.R. 1947), named after Haley Hilderbrand, who was attacked and killed by a 550-pound tiger during a photo session at a federally licensed facility in August 2005. It would amend the Animal Welfare Act to better promote the welfare of captive big cats while also ensuring public safety. For instance, the bill authorizes the secretary of Agriculture to deny or revoke licenses to animal "dealers" and "exhibitors" on the basis of recommendations from state or local officials with jurisdiction over captive wildlife. Civil and criminal penalties for violating the AWA would also be increased by the law.
- The inclusion of language in the 2007 farm bill reauthorization that would create and fund, through grants, centers of emphasis in food systems veterinary medicine. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges is pursuing this. Each center would focus on a different food animal species; by concentrating resources, veterinary colleges could develop one or more world-class teaching, research, and clinical centers as a leading center of emphasis in food systems veterinary medicine.
The Legislative Advisory Committee recommended, and the board approved, AVMA nonsupport for the following:
- The Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act (H.R. 661/S. 394), which has as its aim the humane slaughter of nonambulatory livestock. As written, the legislation does not appropriately address nonambulatory, heat-stressed swine that most often recover with sufficient rest and cooling, and can then safely enter the food supply. Although the welfare of these animals is a concern, this concern is ameliorated by the presence of government veterinarians and inspectors at terminal markets/slaughter plants to enforce the Humane Slaughter Act. Allowing time for stressed swine to recover so they can be humanely slaughtered may be more humane than requiring them to be euthanized by a potentially inexperienced employee.
- H.R. 249, which would place prohibitions on the commercial sale and slaughter of wild free-roaming horses and burros. The AVMA agrees with the American Association of Equine Practitioners that the processing of unwanted horses is currently a necessary aspect of the equine industry and provides a humane alternative to allowing continuation of a life of discomfort and pain, and possibly inadequate care and abandonment. Nonsupport for this legislation is consistent with the AVMA policy "Transportation and processing of horses." Also, the Animal Welfare Committee concurs with the LAC recommendation.
- The Pet Safety and Protection Act (H.R. 1280/S. 714), which amends the Animal Welfare Act to list permissible sources for dogs and cats used by research facilities. The law would eliminate the use of Class B dealers, which some veterinary colleges and veterinary technician schools rely on for obtaining dogs and cats. Moreover, the legislation is inconsistent with the AVMA policy "Use of random-source dogs and cats for research, testing, and education," which states that the carefully controlled use of random-source dogs and cats contributes greatly to improving the health and welfare of both animals and people.
- The Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act (H.R. 1726), which would prohibit the federal government from purchasing any product derived from any "covered animal," including pigs, cattle, and poultry, used or intended for use as food or fiber, unless certain criteria are met. The AVMA did not support the bill during the 109th Congress.
- The Domestic Pet Turtle Market Access Act (H.R. 924 /S. 540), which would require the Food and Drug Administration to permit the sale of baby turtles as long as the seller uses proven methods to effectively treat salmonellosis. The AVMA Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine, which submitted the recommendation, identified several components of the act that it considered harmful to public health. For example, while initial experiments have demonstrated the efficacy of certain Salmonella infection treatments, large-scale research has not been performed to validate these findings.
Additionally, the board approved a recommendation for the AVMA to join the Campaign for Public Health, a coalition that advocates for increased funding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a cost of $2,500 annually.
The CPH is an independent, not-for-profit, 501 (c) (4) organization comprising prominent leaders in the public health and business communities dedicated to advocating for legislation that will accelerate the growth of federal appropriations for the CDC. Senior advisers of the coalition include former CDC directors, senators, and congresspersons.
And finally, the AVMA will once again be an affiliate sponsor of the 11th Annual Animal Health Institute's Pet Night on Capitol Hill this September. For the past 10 years, the AVMA has participated in the event, which is an opportunity to connect with members of Congress and their staffs.