Blog: In this poll, Ohio is definitely No. 1


State gets it right balancing welfare, commercial interests-and recognizes veterinarians' expertise.

Editor's note: The Veterinary Policy Notes blog on helps veterinarians and other animal health professionals keep abreast of the growing number of issues, political challenges and regulatory initiatives affecting the veterinary profession, animal health industry and animal welfare movement.

On Oct. 1, the Ohio Department of Agriculture rules took effect implementing the high-volume breeders bill passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. John Kasich last December. Senate Bill 130 represents a comprehensive and pragmatic regulatory approach to large-scale breeders (those that produce at least nine litters and sell 60 or more dogs per year), pet retailers, and rescue operations in Ohio.

This is not the first time Ohio has stepped up in a major way to mediate disputes between animal rights/welfare organizations and commercial animal interests. In November 2009, Ohio voters approved the formation of the Ohio Livestock Standards Board to regulate farm animal welfare. The board is a carefully designed mix of stakeholders across Ohio who establish and enforce animal welfare rules for Ohio’s farmers and producers.

In both cases, Ohio’s legislators crafted a mainstream, practical, (dare I say “workable”) framework to govern companion and farm animal practices, leaving room for local groups (advocates and commercial interests) to engage and resolve disputes. The regulations are comprehensive but remain tethered to the real world in such a way that Ohio appears to have gotten it right. And veterinarians were recognized as playing a key role for all species.

The other 49 states wrestling with animal welfare and health issues could save themselves time and money by sending a staffer to Columbus to get the news firsthand from Ohio officials. Ohio has provided the country with a model for pets and farm animals, notable for the fact that while not everyone on each side is thrilled, the approach seems to work, as confirmed by Ohio VMA Executive Director Jack Advent. The debate is less shrill and lawyers aren’t litigating the rules.

However frustrated Buckeye fans may be that college football pollsters don’t fancy Ohio State as a national title contender, at least in animal welfare, Ohio rules the roost.

Mark Cushing, JD, is founding partner of the Animal Policy Group, providing government relations and strategic services for various animal health, veterinary and educational interests. He maintains offices in Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C., and is a frequent speaker at veterinary conferences.

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