AVMA supports bills on horse trailers, research

Executive Board adopts positions during November meeting
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The AVMA will push Congress to pass legislation that would forbid transporting horses across state lines in double-deck trailers.

The Association will also advocate for bills intended to improve career opportunities for researchers in the biomedical sciences and to allow creation of charitable agricultural research organizations.

On the other hand, the AVMA will work to defeat a bill that would forbid nontherapeutic use in animals of antimicrobials deemed to be important for human medicine, with exceptions for uses deemed not to risk human health.

The AVMA Executive Board voted in November 2013 to take positions on 12 federal bills. The AVMA will spend the most effort toward passage of three and defeat of one.

The Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2013, S. 1459, is among those the AVMA will try to help pass. The legislation would prohibit interstate transportation of horses that involves any trailer with two or more stacked decks.

The AVMA already opposes use of such trailers through its policy “Humane Transport of Equines,” which states that more horses are hurt in double-deck trailers than in single-deck ones.

The AVMA will also work in support of the Next Generation Research Act, S. 1552, which would require efforts from the National Institutes of Health to improve opportunities for researchers, improve workforce diversity, and help researchers gain renewal funding. And the AVMA will work in support of the Charitable Agricultural Research Act, S. 1280 and H.R. 2671, which would allow tax-deductible charitable contributions to agricultural research organizations connected with certain universities and colleges.

But the AVMA will work for the defeat of the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act, S. 1256, which would reduce the use in livestock of antimicrobials deemed to be important for human medicine. The bill would make the Food and Drug Administration withdraw drug approvals that allow uses of such antimicrobials in livestock in the absence of a documented disease or infection.

The FDA could make exceptions for uses determined unlikely to harm human health through increased antimicrobial resistance development. The bill also states that a veterinarian-client-patient relationship should exist when livestock receive antimicrobials considered to be important in human medicine.

U.S. Capitol Building
(Photo by Greg Cima)

In a recommendation that the AVMA pursue defeat of the bill, the AVMA Legislative Advisory Committee indicated to board members that four other AVMA councils and committees supported the requirement for a veterinarian-client-patient relationship but still opposed the bill. The recommendation said the bill would eliminate the use of some antimicrobials for disease prevention and control without scientific review by the FDA and that drug use safeguards already exist within the veterinary profession and drug approval process.

Dr. Mark P. Helfat, whose board district consists of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., had recommended that the AVMA soften its attitude on such antimicrobial-related legislation. He said not a month passes in which he does not hear veterinarians described in a negative way in connection with antimicrobial use in livestock.

“We are not looking good here,” he said.

He also noted that three AVMA entities recommended simply taking a position in opposition to the bill, rather than working to defeat it. The vote preceded the FDA’s announcement in December that the agency was giving pharmaceutical companies three years to reduce livestock uses of antimicrobials important for human medicine (see article).

Expressing support

The AVMA also will express support for the following bills but expend less effort toward passage:

  • The Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance Act, H.R. 2285, which would create a new Department of Health and Human Services office to coordinate and plan efforts to combat resistance, study antimicrobial use, and make resistance-related recommendations.
  • The Wounded Warrior Service Dog Act of 2013, H.R. 2847, which would establish a grant program to encourage assistance dog use by disabled military veterans.

Expressing opposition

The Executive Board adopted a position of “nonsupport”­ for the Pet Safety and Protection Act of 2013, H.R. 2224, which would restrict who could sell dogs and cats to research facilities and would effectively prohibit sales of random-source dogs and cats from class B dealers. The board’s position means the AVMA opposes the bill but does not consider action against it to be a priority.

Dr. Helfat and four other board members voted to support the legislation. He had argued that the bill fits with AVMA policy that such dealers be used as sources of animals only in the absence of alternatives.

He also said the number of class B dealers—a Depart­ment of Agriculture designation for dealers who typically buy and resell animals—has decreased since the 1990s because of a reputation that such dealers sold stray or illegally captured animals. USDA information indicates more than 100 such dealers sold dogs and cats to research facilities in the early 1990s, and a USDA spokeswoman said only five such class B dealers were licensed as of December 2013.

Dr. Gail C. Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division, said the Animal Welfare Committee, which recommended against supporting the bill, noted that the number of problematic animal dealers has decreased since the 1990s largely as a result of USDA enforcement of Animal Welfare Act requirements. She also said the availability of dogs for dissection varies among universities, and that some universities fill shortfalls through class B dealers.

The AVMA also adopted positions of “nonsupport” for the following bills:

  • The Antimicrobial Data Collection Act, S. 895, which would have the FDA study antimicrobial use and resistance in food-producing animals; give the public data on volumes of antimicrobials used, separated into categories based on their importance in human medicine; and provide details on antimicrobials administered and recipient animals. The AVMA Legislative Advisory Committee recommended the position on the basis of concerns from three other AVMA entities about how much data should be gathered and how the data would be collected, analyzed, and used.
  • The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act, S. 1381 and H.R. 1998, which would restrict who could possess or transfer wildlife. AVMA committees indicated the bill would weaken rules on wildlife possession by circuses and wildlife sanctuaries and reduce zoo accreditation options.
  • The Expedited Departure of Certain Snake Species Act, H.R. 2158, which would allow transportation of yellow anacondas and four types of pythons through U.S. airports and out of the country within 48 hours, provided the snakes remained in secure containers and traveled only to airports. The AVMA Legislative Advisory Committee expressed concern that the bill could contribute to the spread of those snakes and allow diversion or trafficking.
  • The Captive Primate Safety Act, H.R. 2856 and S. 1463, which would designate nonhuman primates “prohibited” wildlife that could not be bought or sold in interstate or foreign commerce, including as pets, with some exceptions for use in licensed and inspected facilities and uses as assistance animals. The latter exception conflicts with the AVMA policy that primates should not be used as assistance animals because of welfare, injury, and disease concerns.
  • The Medical Waste Management Act, H.R. 2891, which would require that the Environmental Protection Agency develop regulations to protect human health and the environment from medical waste as well as regulations to track, handle, and dispose of such waste. The Legislative Advisory Committee recommended opposition to the bill out of concern that it would be burdensome for veterinarians and would usurp states’ medical waste regulations.