Schaumburg, Ill. — California veterinary leaders want the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to stop endorsing its foundation until the non-profit resolves some "financial issues."
SCHAUMBURG, ILL. — California veterinary leaders want the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to stop endorsing its foundation until the non-profit resolves some "financial issues."
The charge surfaces in the California Veterinary Medical Association's (CVMA) amended resolution. The new version appears less contentious than its original, which asked AVMA to rein in the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF), accused by critics of reaching the brink of fiscal catastrophe (See DVM Newsmagazine's June issue). House of Delegates (HOD) members will consider the revised decree as well as four other resolutions during the AVMA's annual meeting this month in Minneapolis.
While supporters claim the foundation's charge is to give away money, detractors allege a track record of overspending. Central to the issue is AVMF's expense-to-income ratio, which reached 79 percent in 2004 compared to a national average of 35 percent or below, the resolution states. CVMA reportedly abolished the original resolution after AVMA officials argued it was overreaching. As a national membership association, AVMA has no power to control the pursestrings of the autonomous foundation, CVMA Executive Director Valerie Fenstermaker says. California veterinary officials have since voted to no longer promote AVMF.
"We believe that an AVMA resolution is the only way to bring this issue to the forefront," Fenstermaker says. "Even though they have limited authority over the AVMF, the AVMA, as a respected organization, must maintain the highest standards when endorsing a charitable organization to its members and the public. Our revised resolution suggests a more realistic approach to actions the AVMA can take to preserve the AVMF."
Preservation means getting more of the veterinary profession to donate for AVMF's mission supporting Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMATs) and disaster preparedness, says Dr. Robert Gordon, New Jersey delegate and chairman of the AVMF's Board of Directors. Although just 3 percent of the profession gives, AVMF still managed to grant $55,000 for disaster preparedness efforts to states last year and $160,000 to AVMA for VMATs. Requesting AVMA to remove its endorsement is counterproductive, especially considering the criticism largely stems from general misunderstandings, he says.
"This does nothing to preserve the AVMF but attempts to destroy it," says Gordon, scheduled to leave his role as the foundation's chair this month. "I'm finishing my two-year term dealing with this instead of on a high note of having given money to the states and supporting disaster relief. Some people seem to forget that the foundation exists for the good of this profession."
As delegates mull CVMA's call, they'll likely take note of a fundraising project predicted to raise $1 million for AVMF. At presstime, Hartz Mountain Corp. announced plans to create stuffed dog toys for veterinarians to sell in their practices. The animals represent those rescued from disasters, saved via AVMF-supported efforts, the company says.
But disaster should not remain AVMF's sole focus, AVMA officials say. Executive Board members recently voted to urge AVMF to re-establish fundraising to support veterinary research and scholarships. The charge calls for the establishment a self-sustaining fund to support such efforts.
AVMA does not have authority to modify the mission of AVMF, Executive Board Chairman Dr. Roger Mahr says. But AVMF fundraising could aid needed research efforts, he adds.
"It's certainly important for the foundation to help serve as a private resource for this funding, especially in clinical research areas," Mahr says. "Veterinary research is certainly a mission of AVMA."
In addition to tackling tough AVMF issues, delegates also plan to deliberate a microchip resolution brought by the Colorado and Florida veterinary medical associations. Veterinary leaders want AVMA to "take an active role in defining, recommending, endorsing and implementing a national microchip standard in the United States," the resolution states. Florida delegate Dr. Larry Dee says with three different chips and as many incompatible scanners, lack of standardization makes it impossible to ensure pets are adequately being tracked and identified. "Numerous national veterinary associations around the world have established specific microchip specifications," the resolution says.
In the United States, competition among microchip manufacturers has upended the marketplace, Dee adds.
"When are we going to get off the dime and take an active role in doing what's best for our pets and practitioners?" he asks. "The AVMA has been a passive observer of the marketplace rather than going forward and saying we need to establish a standard. Kind begging hasn't worked. It's not like the technology isn't there, and that's the real frustration."
With economic interests at play, observers note that endorsing a standard might evoke restraint of trade issues. Most countries recognize (International Standards Organization) ISO technology as their national standard rather than the lower-frequency chips that dominate the U.S. marketplace. Although microchip companies compete, Ralph Johnson, executive director of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association, disregards any notion the resolution prevents free competition.
"This not about one kind of technology or one frequency," he says. "This is about scanners that can read all chips and databases that link. It's an attempt to find a fully functioning recovery system for pets and their owners."
On the table are two resolutions focused on foie gras production methods. Activist group Farm Sanctuary resubmitted its resolution against the forced feeding of birds to produce foie gras, which delegates referred to the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) for review last year.
Based on the committee's findings, AVMA Executive Board members now have stepped in with their own proposal asking delegates to oppose "the mechanical forced feeding of ducks and geese to produce foie gras because of the adverse effects on the birds' health and welfare associated with the practice."
In response, Farm Sanctuary reportedly plans to withdraw its resolution based on redundancies. President Gene Bauston did not return phone calls from DVM Newsmagazine by presstime seeking comment.
Apart from welfare topics, delegates will consider a resolution to permanently move the annual Veterinary Leadership Conference from downtown Chicago to Schaumburg, Ill., where AVMA is headquartered.
Holding the weekend conference in the Schaumburg area will allow members to tour AVMA headquarters, the resolution states.
In addition, the city's contracted hotels have agreed to provide complimentary transportation to shopping and dining areas, the resolution adds.
House of Delegates members as well as state association leaders traditionally attend the event. The move is proposed to take place in January 2007.