Senate's lone veterinarian to retire

Published on
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

Dr. John Ensign, the two-term Republican senator from Nevada, will not run for re-election in 2012.

At a March 7 news conference in Las Vegas, the Senate's only veterinarian said he wanted to spare his family from what he predicted would have been a "very ugly" campaign.

Once considered a potential presidential contender, Dr. Ensign is now the subject of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation over an affair with a former campaign staffer.

Dr. Ensign
Dr. John Ensign

"As I have learned through my mistake, there are consequences to sin," Dr. Ensign, standing with his wife, Darlene, said at a news conference. He pledged to spend his remaining two years in the Senate waging "the fight of my life, not for my political career, but for the future of our country."

Dr. Ensign received his DVM degree from Colorado State University in 1985 and opened the first 24-hour animal hospital in Las Vegas.

He served in the House of Representatives from 1995-1999 and was elected to the Senate in 2000 and re-elected six years later. Dr. Ensign is one of only three veterinarians ever elected to the Senate. He also holds the distinction of being the first veterinarian to have chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee—a top GOP post responsible for electing Senate Republican incumbents and challengers.

During his Senate tenure Dr. Ensign has frequently advocated on behalf of animal and veterinary interests. He wrote the Animal Drug User Fee Act, making the speedy marketing of new animal drugs possible, and authored the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which prohibits the interstate shipment of exotic animals.

Additionally, Dr. Ensign proposed a controversial bill banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption as well as co-sponsored a measure establishing a chief veterinary officer in the Department of Homeland Security. He recently introduced a successful resolution declaring 2011 as World Veterinary Year.

Following Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Ensign took the lead in urging an immediate and coordinated federal rescue effort for pets abandoned along the Gulf Coast.

The Humane Society of the United States named Dr. Ensign its 2005 Legislator of the Year in recognition of his work in Congress as an animal welfare advocate.

Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, AVMA Governmental Relations Division director, said the AVMA appreciates the senator's service for the nation and is proud a veterinarian holds so high an office.

"Senator Ensign has been a key ally on numerous issues, including the National Veterinary Medical Service Act. We look forward to continue to work with him on animal health and veterinary issues over the next two years," Dr. Lutschaunig said.