Board responds to legislative recommendations

Wild free-roaming horses act, National Institute of Food and Agriculture on the agenda
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During its meeting in June, the Executive Board approved six recommendations submitted by the Legislative Advisory Committee. The LAC assists the board in formulating AVMA policies and positions on federal legislative and regulatory issues.

Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act
The board approved "nonsupport" of legislation (H.R. 297/S. 576) to restore the prohibition on the commercial sale and slaughter of wild free-roaming horses and burros. The legislation would amend the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 to:

  • prohibit the sale or transfer for commercial product processing of any free-roaming horse or burro on U.S. public lands; and
  • repeal provisions permitting the sale of certain excess animals or their remains, and excluding from criminal fine or imprisonment a person who processes or permits the processing of such animals' remains.

Nonsupport of this legislation falls in line with the AVMA's endorsement of the American Association of Equine Practitioners' policy on the Transportation and Processing of Horses.

Specialty pay for more board-certified veterinarians
The board has designated "support" status for legislation that would provide specialty pay for board-certified veterinarians employed by the federal government.

Uniformed Services veterinarians in the Army, Air Force, and U.S. Public Health Service receive specialty pay for board certification. Currently, specialty pay is not available to board-certified civilian veterinarians working for the federal government.

The LAC recommended support status because specialty pay would allow the federal government to compete with the private sector in attracting and retaining a highly skilled veterinary work force. It also provides an incentive for professional growth, recognition of excellence, and motivation for mastering higher skill levels.

The board assigned "active pursuit of passage" for similar legislation in the 108th Congress. The bill failed, however, because of lack of support from other health professions.

Now, during the current 109th Congress, the AVMA will gather information relevant to the effect of specialty pay on attracting and retaining board-certified veterinarians to the federal government only.

The National Association of Federal Veterinarians is planning to identify congressional sponsors to introduce the legislation.

Captive Primate Safety Act
Next, the board approved "support" for the Captive Primate Safety Act (H.R. 1329). The legislation would amend the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 to treat nonhuman primates as prohibited wildlife species and make it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any prohibited wildlife species.

The legislation does not apply to individuals or agencies that are:

  • licensed or registered and inspected by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service or any other federal agency with respect to that species;
  • state colleges, universities, or agencies, and state-licensed wildlife rehabilitation centers or veterinarians;
  • accredited wildlife sanctuaries that care for prohibited wildlife species (with restrictions) or have custody of the animal solely for the purpose of expeditiously transporting the animal to a person or agency described above with respect to that species.

Several AVMA positions, such as Wild Animals as Pets and Nonhuman Primates as Assistance Animals, are consistent with the Association's support of the bill. Also, the Animal Welfare Committee recommended the Association support the bill.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture
The board approved "support" for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (H.R. 1563/S. 767). If the legislation passes, a director of food and agriculture science would administer a division of food and agriculture within the National Science Foundation. The director would also coordinate a research agenda with the Secretary of Agriculture.

In November, the board approved support for the formation of NIFA within the Department of Agriculture, on the basis of a recommendation from the Secretary of Agriculture's Research, Education, and Economics Task Force.

The bill was then refined following the introduction of the National Food and Agriculture Science Act of 2004 (S. 3009) on Nov. 16, 2004. The bill worked to establish NIFA within the NSI. The USDA task force recommended the institute be kept separate and managed differently from existing programs, allowing it to establish its own methods of operation.

With this bill, supporters hope to increase the international competitiveness of U.S. agriculture; develop knowledge leading to new foods and practices that improve nutrition and health, and reduce obesity; and to create new, more useful food, fiber, health, medicinal, energy, environmental, and industrial products from plants and animals.

Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act
Meanwhile, the board approved "nonsupport of passage" of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2005 (S. 742/H.R. 2562). The act would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to purportedly preserve the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials used in the treatment of human and animal disease. More than 385 organizations support the bill.

The LAC recommends nonsupport of passage because it believes the ban on antimicrobial uses for routine disease prevention and other routine purposes presents risks to the health and welfare of animals.

Equity for Our Nation's Self-Employed Act of 2005
Finally, the board designated "support" status for the Equity for Our Nation's Self-Employed Act of 2005 (S. 663). The bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow self-employed individuals to deduct health insurance costs from self-employment taxes. It is estimated that self-employed individuals pay an average of $9,068 in health insurance premiums annually for family coverage. If the bill passes, the sole proprietor will save $1,387 annually in taxes on the premiums.

For more information on the AVMA's legislative policies and positions, visit the Association's Governmental Relations Division.