Letter to the editor: Response to HB141 support

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Dear editor,

In response to Mrs. Bobbi Yeo’s column in the O-A News Sunday’s paper, dated March 9, 2014, “Encourage our Senators to pass HB141,” I want to clear up some misinformation.

I agree HB141 is a simple bill, but it is one that would have far-reaching consequences. Like a stone cast into a pond creates many ripples, HB141 would alter or amend the Veterinary Practice Act, the law that regulates the practice of veterinary medicine in Alabama. HB141 completely removes the donor-subsidized 501(c)(3) Spay/Neuter clinics from the regulatory authority of the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (ASBVME). The ASBVME is the regulatory agency established by the Alabama legislature to protect the citizens of this state, its pets, livestock and public health as they pertain to the practice of veterinary medicine.

In essence, when you take your pet or livestock into a veterinary facility, everyone you come in contact with is regulated by the ASBVME by virtue of the fact that they are employed by a licensed, regulated veterinarian in this state. If HB141 passes, this will not be the case. Plainly and simply, the veterinarian will be regulated but everyone else NOT employed by that veterinarian is outside regulation – in other words, all the employees of the 501(c)(3) organization. Therefore, if you have an issue with the services provided and complain to the ASBVME, the board will have absolutely no power to discipline or provide any recourse to assist you. You essentially will be on your own. Is this what we want in a law that is supposed to provide protection for the public? I don’t think so.

Veterinarians in the state are NOT against Spay/ Neuter clinics, never have been and don’t plan to be. They only want these Spay/Neuter clinics to be regulated by the ASBVME. Providing reduced-cost veterinary services for the poor and indigent segment of the population has the support of essentially the entire veterinary community. In fact, we have stated, for the past two legislative sessions, that if means-testing were included in the bill, we would support these clinics being full service veterinary facilities. This was rejected by the 501(c)(3) entities and their supporters due to the inclusion of a means-test provision.

Our means testing definition was, we thought, very liberal: if an individual received any government assistance, this would make them eligible for reduced cost services. All registered animal rescue agencies including the humane societies were also included. We were never told why our offer was rejected.

Many of the Spay/Neuter clinics support TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) programs for cats. Under TNR, feral cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, then receive a one-time vaccination against rabies. They are then released back into the cat colony that they came from. The big question here is how does this protect the public health? Altered or fixed animals can still bite humans, they are still feral, and they can transmit disease, and one of the most dangerous to our public health is rabies (something that a one-time vaccination may not prevent).

The number one killer of song birds in this country is feral cats. Who are their advocates? Check out this link to the National Audubon Society Resolution concerning free-roaming feral cats, http://web4.audubon.org/local/cn/98march/nasr.html. This is just one of the resolutions points:

“WHEREAS feral and free-ranging domestic cats are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of native birds and other small animals annually in the United States; …”

So are Trap-Neuter-Release programs beneficial to the public? Certainly not for the song birds! Mrs.Yeo, in regards to your morality question of “euthanizing large numbers of adoptable animals,” where is the morality in sentencing large numbers of song birds and other small mammals to their deaths? These animals are wards of the State of Alabama; in other words, they belong to all of us.

Owning a pet is a privilege, not a right; I want everyone that wants a pet to have one, but with that ownership comes certain responsibilities. The education of the public is but one of the charges to veterinarians, and veterinarians have dedicated their lives to that task by their initial education and their annual continuing education mandated by the ASBVME.

The Alabama Spay/Neuter Clinic in Irondale (Birmingham) is presently in Administrative Hearings before the ASBMVE for violations of the current Alabama Veterinary Practice Act. HB156 in 2012, HB188 in 2013, and HB141 that is now under consideration in 2014, were apparently introduced to allow or attempt this clinic to circumvent prosecution.

For all the reasons I have outlined above, maybe the four senators (Beasley, Bussman, Dial and Whatley) you cited for voting against HB141, have more insight and understanding of what is actually going on than you give them credit for. HB141 is NOT supported by the ASBVME, the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association (ALVMA), the Alabama Veterinary Practice Owners Association (ALVPOA) and the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF). None of these are “a small interest group” – collectively they represent well over 850 veterinarians in Alabama. The ASBVME regulates all 1600-plus veterinarians in the state.

Sincerely,

H.S. “Buddy” Bruce, DVM

President ALVPOA

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