Veterinarians to visit with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and urge support for rural veterinary shortage and dog importation legislation

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(WASHINGTON, DC) February 1, 2024— On February 6, over 140 veterinary professionals will meet with senators, representatives, and their staffs to discuss the importance of legislation that will help increase the availability of veterinary services in rural areas and protect against the spread of diseases that pose a threat to animal and public health.

As part of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) annual legislative fly-in, advocates, who represent 42 states and 15 veterinary schools, will urge congressional offices to support and cosponsor the Rural Veterinary Workforce Act and include the Healthy Dog Importation Act in the new Farm Bill being considered.

“We need to do more to attract and retain veterinarians in rural and underserved areas, and the Rural Veterinary Workforce Act will go a long way to address those needs,” said Dr. Rena Carlson, AVMA President. “Strengthening dog importation standards by including the Healthy Dog Importation Act in the next Farm Bill is another big focus, and both of these bills are essential to protecting the nation’s animal health infrastructure. The AVMA’s annual legislative fly-in represents a unique opportunity for veterinary advocates and constituents to engage with their representatives in Congress on matters that are important to the veterinary profession.”

The AVMA-endorsed Rural Veterinary Workforce Act would end federal taxation on the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), thus enabling more veterinarians to participate in a program that offers up to $25,000 a year for student loan repayment in exchange for service in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-designated Veterinarian Shortage Situations. This would make the tax treatment of the awards the same as the equivalent program for physicians. Ending the federal tax would also allow the USDA to provide an additional award for every three awards currently made under the VMLRP without any supplemental appropriations.

Dr. Carlson continued, “Passage of the bipartisan Rural Veterinary Workforce Act would help address veterinary voids for USDA-designated shortage areas, attract and retain veterinarians by removing the financial barriers related to practicing in underserved communities, and assist veterinary graduates with the significant obstacle of educational debt.”

Under the AVMA-championed Healthy Dog Importation Act, the USDA and other federal agencies would receive the necessary resources to monitor and safeguard the health of dogs being brought into the U.S. while ensuring they do not endanger animal and human health.

“Including the Healthy Dog Importation Act in the new Farm Bill would decrease the chances of future disease outbreaks from the more than 1.2 million dogs imported into the U.S. each year,” Dr. Carlson concluded.

Co-chairs of the Senate Veterinary Medicine Caucus, Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), issued the following statements:

“I am thrilled that veterinarians are coming to Capitol Hill next week to make their voices heard,” said Senator Hyde-Smith. “Veterinarians do so much to protect public health, the food supply, and the human-animal bond. It is invaluable for lawmakers to hear from these constituents and to understand how broadly this occupation benefits our society. I look forward to continuing to champion common-sense solutions to the issues facing the veterinary profession.”

“I started the Senate Veterinary Medicine Caucus with Senator Hyde-Smith to support our country’s veterinarians and the important work they do to protect animal health,” said Senator Klobuchar. “As we work to finalize the upcoming Farm Bill, I will continue working across the aisle to ensure veterinarians have the federal support they need to keep our pets healthy, protect our food supply, and expand access to veterinary services in rural communities.”

For more information on the AVMA’s advocacy efforts, subscribe to the AVMA Advocate newsletter.

About the AVMA

Serving more than 105,000 member veterinarians, the AVMA is the nation's leading representative of the veterinary profession, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of animals, humans and the environment. Founded in 1863 and with members in every U.S. state and territory and more than 60 countries, the AVMA is one of the largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. Informed by our members' unique scientific training and clinical knowledge, the AVMA supports the crucial work of veterinarians and advocates for policies that advance the practice of veterinary medicine and improve animal and human health.