FVMA cultivates politicians at the grass roots level

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Orlando, Fla. — In a push to unify the voice of veterinary medicine, the Florida Veterinary Medical Association is encouraging practitioners to enter politics.

ORLANDO, FLA. — In a push to unify the voice of veterinary medicine, the Florida Veterinary Medical Association is encouraging practitioners to enter politics.

"Veterinarians need to enhance legislative effectiveness, as to not be overrun by powerful forces outside the profession," says Dr. Stephen Shores, FVMA president. "The veterinary profession doesn't have the money or numbers to alter legislative agendas; becoming involved on some level is imperative."

Speaking at the FVMA luncheon, Shores says veterinarians need to become more politically savvy if expected to be looked upon for opinions and in expert witness situations.

FVMA has employed a part-time lobbyist to help advance veterinary medicine's agenda, Shores says.

"The executive board, myself and the executive director are making this a priority," he adds.

Dr. Robert Sindler wants a more politically active profession. From 1988 to 1998, he served in the state's House of Representatives and is currently serving as the Orange County Commissioner, a post he has occupied for the last seven years.

"Veterinarians have a lot of expertise to offer — scientific and business," Sindler says. "Many laws are made that directly affect the profession. This is why veterinarians must have a voice."

However, cost remains a barrier. A campaign for a state House of Representatives seat can easily cost $200,000 and can run upwards of $500,000, Sindler says.

If veterinarians do not feel they can run for a political office, talking to state representatives, local politicians and keeping up with issues is a good start.

"If someone in office considers you (as a veterinarian) a resource, you can be successful in communicating your opinion on an issue," Sindler says.

"Veterinarians tend to not like politics, but I think as a whole, we are beginning to recognize the need to be involved," he adds. "Politics will involve you whether you like it or not."

Sindler, of Sorrento Fla., sold his practice when he was called to duty in Afghanistan. He now works at the Eastlake Veterinary Clinic two days a week and is at his Orange County office the rest of the week.

Sindler has thrown his hat into the ring for bid on a Florida House of Representatives seat in the 2006 election.

"Hot-button issues activate my interest in politics," says Dr. Richard Wilks, past FVMA president. "I became interested out of necessity."

In the last legislative session, veterinarians wanted to close a loophole that allowed companies access to client names and contact information — considering it proprietary. The bill did not pass, however, officials expect it to be presented again in 2006.

"Altering the practice act and issues that pertain to non-veterinarians performing therapies on animals, are issues veterinarians should be on top of," Wilks says.

Politicians need support of the community. If veterinarians become involved, the person voting will consider confiding in the practitioner when making a decision, officials say.

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