Resolution seeks to alter task force goals


SCHAUMBURG, ILL.-Lack of time and resources have stymied an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)-mandated project to establish state support in defending legislative challenges affecting the profession.

SCHAUMBURG, ILL.-Lack of time and resources have stymied an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)-mandated project to establish state support in defending legislative challenges affecting the profession.

Dr. Dick Schumacher

AVMA's House of Delegates charged group officials last year with developing a information task force to guide states faced with protests against production practices, guardianship language or declaw bans. Since then, the Legislative and Regulatory Task Force has met once, and that's unacceptable for states dealing with activist agendas, says Dr. Dick Schumacher, California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) executive director.

"I personally am somewhat disappointed it's taken this long," he says. "My opinion on the intent of this resolution is to have AVMA doing what the CVMA is already doing at the state and local level."

That means developing packets of information on hot-button issues such as guardianship and declaw bans and sending them to local associations as needed. It also includes shedding light on gray areas such as prescription-writing fees, Schumacher says.

"Once they make a policy statement, they should roll out a program to defeat the issue at the state level," he says. "That's what we do locally. It doesn't cost a lot and doesn't take a lot of resources. That's the intent of the resolution."

Lack of understanding

It's not that simple, says Dr. Bruce Little, AVMA executive vice president. The task force has met once, he says, because its takes considerable effort to get its nine members together. Aside from that, it's easily a six-figure project, he adds.

"We have a buzz word out there now, and it's called task force," he says. "It's easy to say let's create a task force to do that, but you have to consider the cost of staffing up and research. I'm aware that right now, there are 10,000 bills in Illinois session. We can't keep up with every state without a big staff.

"There was a time when the states didn't want us dawdling in their business. With animal rights and welfare issues, that's changed. I just know something's going to fall through the cracks, and we're going to get blamed for it."

Resolution to act

That's doesn't have to be the case, with some guidance on how other professions deal with these issues, says Don Schaefer, executive director of the Florida Veterinary Medical Association and backer of a new resolution to be presented at the AVMA House of Delegates meeting this month in Philadelphia.

Adding to the task force's goals, Schaefer wants AVMA to analyze how other non-veterinary membership associations provide legislative assistance to constituents. The resolution reads: "Be it further resolved, that this requested comparative analysis include the evaluation of the support structure including funding of at least three other national non-veterinary professional associations, one of which must be the American Optometric Association and that any desirable program used by these associations be reported."

The cost of research is estimated at $2,500.

"We're already making an effort," Little says. "The task force has started sending out letters to a dozen organizations to see what they're doing on this."

One group

Efforts to unite the AVMA and American Association of Veterinary State Boards' (AAVSB) competing educational equivalency programs for foreign graduates seem to have stalled, says Ron Allen, executive director of the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. While AAVSB's Program for the Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalence is accepted in just a handful of states, it challenges the AVMA's longstanding Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG). The two groups have clashed for years, but leaders now say they are taking steps to create one autonomous program.

To speed up the process, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association has introduces a resolution charging AVMA with making "a good faith effort" to work with AAVSB to complete the establishment of a single, independent body for certification of graduates of non-accredited veterinary programs.

"The AVMA and AAVSB have had adequate time to resolve this issue but do not appear to be any closer to a resolution today than they were two years ago," the resolution states. "Every day that goes by without a resolution to this issuemakes it that much more likely that we will end up with competing programs. Such a result will almost certainly mean the lowering of certification standards."

Animal welfare

Two animal welfare-based resolutions aim to raise the living standard for fowl.

Resolution 2, submitted by petition, requests AVMA oppose the forced molting of layered hens - an initiative that's been proposed annually to delegates for at least five years. The resolution states that food deprivation is unnecessary and inhumane and states, "The fast-food industry (e.g. McDonald's, Burger King, etc.) and the egg production industry (United Egg Producers) have taken the lead on this issue by opposing forced molting."

Resolution 3, also submitted by petition, asks AVMA to oppose the force feeding of birds to produce foie gras.

"There is a considerable weight of scientific evidence, including a report of the scientific committee on Animal Health and Welfare, which indicates that force feeding ducks and geese to produce foie gras adversely affects the birds' heath and welfare. The humane treatment of birds and other animals that are raised for food is a topic of increasing concern among citizens of the United States."

The resolution adds that a number of European countries already ban the practice.

Praise for service members

The District of Columbia Veterinary Medical Association and the National Association of Federal Veterinarians are asking AVMA to acknowledge and commend outstanding achievements of active and reserve military veterinarians participating in the fight against terrorism and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"Both active and reserve component veterinarians of the uniformed services have deployed to Southwest Asia or been mobilized for duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom," resolution 1 states. "More than 100 veterinarians have deployed in the Persian Gulf in the past two years to carry out vital missions. These veterinarians have left families behind and, in the case of reserve veterinarians, left civilian jobs to support our national defense."

Veterinarians play a "crucial role" in supporting the war on terrorism by ensuring food and water safety for the Department of Defense; providing medical care to government-owned animals; performing environmental surveillance; collaborating with other federal agencies; nation building; and supporting biodefense research and development initiatives, the resolution adds.

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