Delegates consider dues hike, resolutions


140th AVMA Annual Convention kicks off July 19; former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani hosts keynote address

Schaumburg, Ill.-As the House of Delegates (HOD) convenes July 17 in Denver before the 2003 American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) annual convention, representatives will be faced with at least six resolutions and a handful of bylaw amendments, including an estimated $1.4 million dues increase.

The AVMA Executive Board is expected to ask for $25 more in annual fees,raising dues for an estimated 59,000 paying members to $250 a year. If passed,it will be the second such jolt since 2001, when delegates upped membershipcosts $25 to $225 - a move that buoyed the association's balance sheet duringa year of economic turmoil. This time, AVMA Executive Vice President Dr.Bruce Little says the money will go toward boosting the association's roleas a promoter of and leader in veterinary medicine.

"We have huge amounts of work coming down and huge issues rightnow," Little says. "There's the issue of antimicrobial resistance,malpractice and liability claims, insurance, legislative issues to be addressedin states, the list goes on and on.

"This increase is deserved. The dues that AVMA members pay are thebest bargain in America."

On the table

Presumably the fee adjustment would fund at least one of this year'ssix resolutions should it pass by HOD majority.

Veterinary officials in 10 states are bringing forth a resolution confirmingthe need for AVMA to take a more active role supporting state veterinarymedical associations' efforts to respond to legislative challenges. It asksAVMA to confirm its constitutional language "to provide needed assistancewhen requested to a state veterinary medical association engaged in thedefense of their state veterinary practice act or other state legislativeinitiatives that have the potential to diminish the role and scope of veterinarymedicine on an interstate basis."

"It's obvious that whatever happens in any community affects theentire United States when it comes to animal welfare legislation,"says Dr. Dick Schumacher, California Veterinary Medical Association's (CVMA)executive director. Most recently, CVMA successfully lobbied to defeat abill to ban cat declaws but failed to block an identical community measurein West Hollywood (see related story, page 26).

Other issues cropping up across the nation concern a movement to valuepets as more than property in lawsuits against veterinarians and animalwelfare housing measures affecting farm animals.

Veterinary medical associations in Puerto Rico, Ohio, Indiana, Florida,California, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Georgia backthis resolution.

Image maintenance

Veterinary medical associations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia andDistrict of Columbia as well as the National Association of Federal Veterinarianswant AVMA to financially support a public relations campaign emphasizingthe profession's role in homeland security.

Their resolution estimates a public relations program's cost at $50,000.

"The natural inclination of the public at large is to think of veterinariansas caretakers of their pets and experts in animal health," the resolutionstates. "The public is not aware of the crucial role that all veterinarians,both small and large animal practitioners, play in food safety, public healthand biosecurity."

Debt forgiveness

Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia veterinarymedical associations as well as the National Association of Federal Veterinariansalso want delegates to consider a resolution encouraging the U.S. Congressto pass legislation granting debt forgiveness to veterinary medical studentsseeking post-doctorate degrees in public health or epidemiology.

"Veterinary grads should be encouraged to select additional trainingin these areas, however, the high cost of education and low starting salariesin the above mentioned fields deter students from selecting these areasas a career path," the resolution states.

An estimated $25,000 is requested for congressional campaign costs.

New route to elections

The Iowa Veterinary Medical Association (IVMA) requests the delegatesconsider amending the election process for the AVMA executive board chair.

AVMA executive board members currently elect candidates to the position,which is assigned to the board of governors consisting also of the association'spresident and president-elect. While the House of Delegates elects candidatesfor both presidential offices, IVMA officials believe the chair should beelected from executive board elected districts.

The resolution states: "It would give wider diversity to have thechair elected from elected districts. It would assure the board of governorswould have one member who understood the executive board well in case thepresident or president-elect had minimal executive board experience beforebeing elected.

"The resolution would assure a different perspective each year andhelp eliminate the possible perception that the control of the AVMA is solelyin the hands of the officers."

Forced molting, sow housing

Two animal welfare issues, both submitted by petition, also are on theagenda and concern forced molting as well as pregnant sow housing standards.

An anti-forced molting resolution asks AVMA to recommend all hens usedin commercial egg production receive fresh water and food on a daily basisunless required by therapeutic purposes.

Delegates passed a position statement last year that reads, "Inducedmolting extends the production life of commercial chicken flocks, improveslong-term flock health and performance and results in substantial reductionin the number of chickens needed to produce the nation's egg supply."It replaced the AVMA's old position and nullified an anti-molting measureinitiated by the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights.

Also up for consideration is a measure to withdraw a resolution adoptedby delegates in 2002 supporting the use of sow housing configurations thatmeet AVMA standards. Last year's resolution states the configurations shouldminimize aggression; protect sows from environmental extremes; reduce hazards;provide access to food and water; and facilitate observation of individualsow health.

The new resolution would go further, requesting a thorough and objectivereview of scientific evidence related to impact of health and welfare ofkeeping breeding sows in gestation crates.

In other business

Rudolph Giuliani, former two-term Mayor of New York City, is AVMA's guestspeaker July 20. He is expected to share his experiences in unparalleledleadership, extraordinary heroism and profound determination during hiskeynote address to the profession, the organization says.

Giuliani led New York City through the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks,earning him the honorary title of "America's Mayor" as well asTime Magazine's 2001 Man of the Year. Queen Elizabeth II made Giuliani anhonorary KBE-Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the BritishEmpire.

"We're honored that Mr. Giuliani will be joining us for the GeneralSession," says Dr. Dennis McCurnin, chairman of the AVMA Conventionand Program Committee. "He was at the center of America's recovery,restoring faith and maintaining pride. As we convene in Denver, Mr. Giuliani'saddress will be integral to our profession."

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