Veterinary lawmakers a rare breed

Arguably, there's no better representative for the profession than one of its own
Published on July 24, 2019

The personal and professional lives of veterinarians are affected by legislation and regulation every day, from when they write a prescription to when they pay their student loan each month. The AVMA, which represents roughly three out of four American veterinarians, actively encourages members to get involved with its advocacy efforts at every level of government. They can do this by joining the AVMA Congressional Advocacy Network, contributing to the AVMA Political Action Committee, or participating in the AVMA Congressional Fellowship Program or AVMA Legislative Fly-In. Some veterinarians have gone so far as to run for federal office.

Currently, Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon), Ted Yoho (R-Florida), and Ralph Abraham (R-Louisiana) represent the profession in the U.S. House of Representatives. Both Drs. Yoho and Abraham sit on the House Committee on Agriculture. Dr. Abraham also sits on the Committee on Armed Services, and Dr. Yoho sits on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Dr. Schrader sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

They are part of a very elite club of veterinarian lawmakers serving at the national level.

U.S. House of Delegates Chamber

Their predecessors include Drs. Wayne Allard, a Republican who represented Colorado's 4th Congressional District from 1991-97 in the House and was then one of Colorado's senators from 1997-2009; John Melcher, a Democrat who represented Montana's 2nd Congressional District in the House from 1969-77 and represented that state in the Senate from 1977-89; and John Ensign, a Republican who represented Nevada's 1st Congressional District in the House from 1995-99 and represented Nevada in the Senate from 2001-11.

For the first time, JAVMA News reporters conducted interviews with all three sitting representatives to discuss how their background in veterinary medicine has influenced their approach to policy, what legislation they've introduced or sponsored, and how they have advocated for the profession.

Related JAVMA content:

John Melcher, first veterinarian elected to Senate, dies at 93 (June 15, 2018)

Senators emphasize importance of veterinarians participating in legislative process (Sept. 15, 2003)