AVMA proactive in influencing legislation

One bill's language partly adopted from AVMA model act
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Crush videos, aquaculture, and puppy mills are just some of the veterinary and animal welfare-related issues currently being considered by the 111th Congress.

During its June meeting at Association headquarters, the AVMA Executive Board took action on five recommendations from its Legislative Advisory Committee regarding pending bills.

A designation of "nonsupport" was given by the board to the National Sustainable Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2009 (H.R. 4363).

The act would:

  • Establish a regulatory system for sustainable offshore aquaculture in the "United States exclusive economic zone."
  • Authorize the secretary of commerce to determine appropriate locations for, permit, regulate, and monitor offshore aquaculture in the exclusive economic zone.
  • Require the secretary of commerce to issue regulations for permitting of offshore aquaculture in the exclusive economic zone that prevent impacts on the marine ecosystem and fisheries or minimize such impacts to the extent they cannot be avoided.
  • Establish a research program to guide the precautionary development of offshore aquaculture in the exclusive economic zone that ensures ecological sustainability and compatibility with healthy, functional ecosystems.

The AVMA Aquatic Veterinary Medicine Committee and the AVMA Committee on Environmental Issues, after reviewing the legislation, took issue with its language. While supportive of offshore aquaculture, the committees were concerned that, as written, H.R. 4363 would not be constructive for encouraging offshore aquaculture and, if passed, may negatively impact offshore aquaculture development.

The AqVMC and CEI pushed for "active pursuit of defeat"; however, the LAC decided that "nonsupport" was more appropriate because of the AVMA Governmental Relations Division's current legislative workload.

The board also approved a position of "nonsupport" for the Meat Safety and Accountability Act (S. 3163) and the Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training Practices Act (H.R. 4269).

S. 3163 would amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act to require the tracing of meat and meat food products that are adulterated or contaminated by foodborne pathogens to their source.

The LAC "felt that while the stated intent is worthy, the practicality and ultimate effect of the legislation was questionable," according to the background to the recommendation, and advocated for a position of nonsupport of S. 3163.

Specifically, the committee called into question the act's requirement for testing of all slaughter facilities supplying meat to a processor found to have produced contaminated ground meat—not just those facilities that supplied meat for the lot of contaminated ground meat. Doing so would be "arbitrary, cumbersome, resource-dependent, and expensive," according to the LAC.

H.R. 4269 would amend federal law to require the secretary of defense to use only human-based methods for training members of the armed forces in the treatment of severe combat and chemical and biological injuries.

Both the AVMA Council on Research and the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee acknowledged that the armed forces are investigating and instituting non-animal-based methods to teach medical processes, but in some medical situations, they do not have effective non-animal-based methods that would eliminate the need for animal-based models.

The board did vote to support the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act (H.R. 5434/S. 3424).

This legislation would amend the Animal Welfare Act to require licensing and inspection of dog breeders who sell more than 50 dogs per year directly to the public. In addition, the legislation would require that dogs in all federally regulated breeding facilities have appropriate space and opportunity for daily exercise.

Over the past few months, AVMA GRD and Animal Welfare Division staff members have worked closely with Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin's office and other stakeholders to craft this legislation.

Some language from the AVMA's "Model Bill and Regulations to Assure Appropriate Care for Dogs Intended for Use as Pets," a state-level model approved by the Executive Board in April 2010, was incorporated in drafting the exercise provisions (see JAVMA, July 1, 2010).

The Animal Welfare Committee's Management Subcommittee noted in the background to the LAC recommendation that the legislation would close a loophole in the AWA that currently exempts large breeders from Department of Agriculture inspection and licensing requirements, which was cited by a recent USDA Office of Inspector General report critical of USDA enforcement activities related to the AWA.

Finally, a bill to prohibit the sale of animal crush videos in interstate or foreign commerce (H.R. 5092) received a vote of "active pursuit of passage" from the board.

H.R. 5092 would amend federal law related to depiction of animal cruelty so that anyone who sells animal "crush videos" in interstate or foreign commerce would be fined, imprisoned for five years or less, or both. These videos, which show animals being intentionally crushed, burned, or the like, recently came into the spotlight when the U.S. Supreme Court on April 20 struck down the "Crush Act," a 1999 federal law banning the creation, sale, and possession of materials depicting graphic violence against animals.

The court attributed its decision to the fact that the law violated the constitutional right to free speech and was overly broad, making mention that it was not passing judgment about whether such videos were constitutional. A day after the ruling, legislators introduced H.R. 5092.

The Animal Welfare Committee's Management Subcommittee reviewed the legislation and believes such depictions reflect activities that are clear violations of anti-cruelty statutes and basic social sensibilities regarding the appropriate use and treatment of animals, according to the background to the LAC recommendation.