On April 27, 200 veterinary professionals will meet with senators, representatives and their staff to highlight the importance of legislation that will help increase access to veterinary services in rural areas and reduce the spread of diseases that pose a threat to animal and public health.
As part of the American Veterinary Medical Association's annual legislative fly-in, attendees, who represent 48 states and 20 veterinary schools, will educate congressional offices about the need to pass the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act and the Healthy Dog Importation Act.
"The veterinary community stands united in advocating for Congress to help alleviate Veterinarian Shortage Situations in rural areas by assisting with the significant obstacle of student debt, and to ensure that dogs entering the country are healthy, thus reducing the potential for the spread of diseases that can endanger animal and public health," says José Arce, AVMA President. "Expanding the VMLRP means increased access to veterinary services for rural populations across the country and strengthening dog importation standards will decrease the chances of future disease outbreaks from the more than 1.2 million dogs imported into the U.S. each year. As veterinary constituents, we look forward to educating Congress about how vital the VMLRP Enhancement Act is to maintaining vibrant rural communities and the importance of strengthening our nation's animal and public health infrastructure by passing the Healthy Dog Importation Act."
The AVMA-endorsed VMLRP Enhancement Act would end federal taxation on VMLRP awards, thus enabling more veterinarians to participate in a program that offers up to $25,000 a year for student loan repayment in exchange for service in USDA-designated Veterinarian Shortage Situations. This would make the tax treatment of the awards the same as for the analogous program for physicians. Under the AVMA-championed Healthy Dog Importation Act, the USDA and other federal agencies would receive the necessary resources to monitor and safeguard the health of dogs being brought into the United States, while ensuring they do not endanger animal and human health.
Co-chairs of the Congressional Veterinary Medicine Caucus, Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), issued the following statements:
"As the only veterinarian serving in Congress, I take issues of animal health and safety very seriously. I am proud to serve as Co-chair of the Congressional Veterinary Medicine Caucus and will continue to champion efforts aimed at the health, welfare and protection of animals," says Rep Schrader. "I appreciate the work that AVMA is doing and look forward to meeting with them and other veterinary professionals during this year's fly-in to discuss the importance of expanding access to veterinary services, mitigating the spread of zoonotic diseases, and working to get our bipartisan legislation, the Healthy Dog Importation Act, across the finish line."
"The USDA continues to face a rural veterinarian shortage – we need a strong veterinary industry to ensure the health of livestock and pets across America," says Rep. Johnson. "I'm grateful for the AVMA's focus on animal health and dedication to veterinary services in rural states like South Dakota."
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