Resolutions address random-source animals, swine disease

Delegates also to consider member dues, reference committees
Published on December 01, 2009
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The AVMA House of Delegates will consider resolutions relevant to animal well-being and Association matters during its regular winter session, Jan. 9, 2010.

Resolution 2, submitted by the Executive Board, is a proposal to increase member dues. See story for details. Resolutions 1 and 4 propose two contrasting revisions to the AVMA policy on the use of random-source dogs and cats in research. Resolution 3 would restructure the House of Delegates reference committees to reflect the Association's strategic goals. Resolution 5 would commit AVMA support to comprehensive disease surveillance of the U.S. swine herd.

Resolution 1, submitted by the New Jersey VMA, Virginia VMA, and Pennsylvania VMA
Revise Policy on Use of Random-Source Dogs and Cats for Research, Testing, and Education

Resolution 4, submitted by the American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners
Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research

"Random-source" means dogs and cats obtained from animal pounds or shelters, auction sales, or any person who did not breed and raise them on his or her premises. Those using random-source animals may obtain them from class B dealers—brokers, bunchers, and operators of auction sales. Class B dealers typically obtain their animals from pounds and shelters, owners who wish to relinquish ownership, and other sources, including class A dealers. Class A dealers are breeders who deal only in animals they breed and raise on their premises or animals that are acquired for the purpose of maintaining or enhancing the breeding colony. The Department of Agriculture licenses class A and class B dealers.

Resolution 1 and Resolution 4 both start as follows:

"RESOLVED, that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) revise the Policy on Use of Random-Source Dogs and Cats for Research, Testing, and Education as indicated below (additions are underlined; deletions are struckthrough):"
Use of Random-Source Dogs and Cats for Research, Testing, and Education
The carefully controlled use of random-source dogs and cats contributes greatly to improving the health and welfare of both animals and human beings. Therefore, the AVMA believes there is ample justification for prudent and humane use of random-source dogs and cats in research, testing, and education, provided that:

  • The institution conducting such research, testing, or education has met all legal requirements and guidelines pertaining to the acquisition, care, and use of dogs and cats for these purposes;
  • The investigators have thoughtfully examined the need for such dogs and cats, appropriately justified the use of the species, and carefully determined the minimum number required to meet the needs of the protocol; …"

Under Resolution 1, the rest of the policy would read as follows:

  • Adequate safeguards are used to ensure that only appropriately screened dogs and cats are obtained legally; and
  • Preventive measures are taken to optimize the health of dogs and cats used in research, testing, and education.; and
  • Class B Dealers should not be used to obtain dogs and cats.

Under Resolution 4, the rest of the policy would read as follows:

  • Adequate safeguards are used to ensure that only appropriately screened dogs and cats are obtained legally; and
    •Ppreventive measures are taken to optimize the health of dogs and cats used in research, testing, and education.
  • Class B dealers are used to obtain random-source dogs and cats only when viable alternatives do not exist.
  • Alternative sources are explored and supported that will ultimately eliminate the need for Class B dealers as a source for random-source dogs and cats used in research, testing, and education.

The New Jersey, Virginia, and Pennsylvania VMAs explain in their statement about Resolution 1 that they believe random-sources animals should not be procured from class B dealers because more humane and acceptable alternatives exist elsewhere.

As backing for this conclusion, the VMAs cite the findings of a May 2009 report from the National Academies on random-source dogs and cats in research. The report resulted from a congressional request to the National Institutes of Health to examine the subject relevant to NIH-funded research.

The report concluded that husbandry standards and humane treatment of animals were unacceptably variable among class B dealers and that the USDA cannot ensure that stolen or lost pets will not enter research laboratories via class B dealers. The report notes that random-source dogs and cats also are available directly from alternative sources such as shelters and pounds.

In the statement about Resolution 4, the American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners explains that random-source dogs and cats are valuable for research and education because of their diversity in genetics, age, size, anatomic conformation, and pre-existing conditions.

In its statement, ASLAP suggests that the exclusion of class B dealers as suppliers of random-source dogs and cats is not viable because other suppliers cannot provide an adequate number and variety of needed animals. Many states and municipalities prohibit acquisition of animals directly from shelters for use in research.

ASLAP supports the development of additional alternative suppliers of random-source dogs and cats as well as actions to ensure sound oversight of class B dealers by the USDA. Such actions would include an intensification of inspection efforts and absolute enforcement of existing federal regulations.

Resolution 3, submitted by the Massachusetts VMA, Connecticut VMA, Maine VMA, New Hampshire VMA, and Vermont VMA
Charge the House Advisory Committee to Restructure the House Reference Committees

"RESOLVED, that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) House of Delegates charge the House Advisory Committee with restructuring the Reference Committee descriptions within the House of Delegates (HOD) Manual in time for the 2010 Annual Session such that the current listing of Reference Committees is replaced with a Committee on Administration and Finance, to which matters pertaining to the administration and finances of the AVMA will be referred, and other Reference Committees which will be created and named to reflect the strategic goals of the AVMA. Furthermore, the HAC is charged with making any other appropriate changes to the HOD Manual to efficiently accommodate necessary governance functions with this charge."

Currently, the seven reference committees are divided among the following categories: administration, public matters, education and research, finance, legislative and governmental matters, member services, and scientific activities.

Reference committees consider reports and resolutions referred to them and initiate their own resolutions. Reports and resolutions referred to them may be reworded for clarity but may not be edited to alter the thoughts originally expressed. Reference committees may include suggested actions, but, ultimately, the committees can only approve, disapprove, or refer parts of or a whole report, and resolutions in their entirety.

According to the resolution sta tement, the five VMAs contend that any major work from a council, committee, or task force is reported in JAVMA, online, or through other AVMA communication outlets. For that reason, they say reference committees have no need to spend time reviewing reports when they could instead devote their efforts toward discussing resolutions and working on ideas to achieve the Association's strategic goals.

The co-sponsors state that this resolution will make the HOD more relevant and give it the opportunity to fulfill its authority and responsibility, as stated in the AVMA Bylaws, of being the principal body within the Association responsible for establishing policy and providing direction on matters relating to veterinary medicine.

If approved, the resolution would, in effect, allow reference committees to change over time to be aligned with the AVMA's strategic goals. Initially, it would create reference committees on advocacy, animal welfare, economic viability, veterinary education, and veterinary workforce.

Resolution 5, submitted by the American Association of Swine Veterinarians
Swine Disease Surveillance

"RESOLVED, that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) supports the development of comprehensive and integrated disease surveillance of the U.S. Swine Herd."

Public and animal health issues stemming from the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus have made the swine industry realize how important it is to develop a comprehensive plan to surveil the U.S. swine herd, according to Dr. Tom Burkgren, executive director of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. In Resolution 5, the AASV seeks the AVMA's support for efforts to develop an integrated system.

Currently the government monitors for diseases such as pseudorabies and swine brucellosis, and often, producers surveil their own herds for swine pathogens such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome.

"But there's not been a comprehensive plan to look not only at what exists but also what may be emerging in the swine herd. That's what the industry wants to move toward," Dr. Burkgren said. "We'd like to get something hashed out and in place in 2010."

The program would be designed to monitor for H1N1 and other influenza viruses, emerging and endemic diseases, and foreign animal diseases in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

"The effort is under way, and we're trying to sort out issues such as funding, responsibilities, and structure, because what we want is a database-type system that is flexible enough to respond to ongoing and future needs," he added.

By mid-November several conference calls and a face-to-face meeting were held by the industry—including the National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, and AASV—with the Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The AASV seeks the AVMA's seal of approval for developing this system and eventually for the system itself. Having AVMA support would strengthen the industry's efforts with the USDA and CDC and set the stage for congressional action if needed. The resolution would have no financial impact on the AVMA.

Dr. Burkgren said the industry must be conscious of sensibilities and sensitivities as it moves forward with a public health issue such as H1N1, to avoid needless business interruptions. Producers were initially reluctant to surveil their swine herds for H1N1, for instance, because they didn't know what the reaction would be to infection within a herd.

"Were they going to be quarantined? Would the packers still take their animals? We've worked beyond that now. We've had the first commercial swine herd confirmed positive, in Indiana, and there's been no disruption in business," Dr. Burkgren said.

One of AASV's primary roles will be acting in the best interest of swine herd veterinarians, whose participation is critical, he said.

"We're looking at how to involve herd veterinarians not only in taking samples but also in determining what needs to be surveilled," Dr. Burkgren explained. "We want to avoid creating a workload for them that is unwarranted while at the same time providing them with a conduit for input into the system.

"We want to build a system that's responsive to the local veterinarians. If a veterinarian sees or isolates something that's out of the ordinary, the system would respond with wider geographic surveillance."

AVMA members can share their thoughts on proposed resolutions and bylaws amendments by contacting their state VMA or constituent allied organization, both of which have representation in the House of Delegates.

At press time, the AVMA Executive Board was holding its fall meeting. The board's recommendations to the House of Delegates regarding the resolutions and amendments will be reported in the Jan. 1, 2010, issue.