What is HELP FIDO?

Humane Education Leads to Progress
For Informed Dog Owners

Vision Statement: We envision a society free from discrimination, where responsibility, education, love and compassion allow humans to fully respect and understand man's best friend.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Legislative Day - HELP FIDO Discussing the Issues

Hello all. Today was a GOOD DAY!! This is gonna be a LONG POST.....

This morning Brian and I attended OVMA (Ohio Veterinary Medical Association) Legislative Day in Columbus, Ohio. This is a yearly event hosted by the OVMA and invitations are extended to all veterinarians who are current members of the organization (this year about 50 vets...and Brian ; ) attended). The event allows veterinarians to have the opportunity to meet legislators to discuss issues such as animal welfare, public health, agriculture and items that affect the profession as a whole.

This year there were 3 specific topics that were at the forefront of discussion: State Rabies vaccination requirements for dogs and cats, The Puppy-Mill Bill, and House Bill 79 - removal of the "pit-bull" terminology from the existing Ohio vicious and dangerous animal law.

Brian and I were fortunate enough to meet with Rep. Dan Dodd and Senator Tim Schaffer today to discuss these issues. Overall, they seemed pretty interested in what we had to say and open to learning more. Here is a somewhat quick overview:

Rabies Vaccination Requirements - The OVMA is proposing that a bill be introduced to create a statewide rabies vaccine requirement for dogs and cats. Currently, Ohio is one of only 10 states, and the only state east of the mighty Mississippi, that does NOT have a statewide law requiring companion animals to be rabies vaccinated. On the local level, the state relies on local government (mostly health departments) to enact and enforce rabies requirements on animals within their jurisdictions (49% of local health depts. have such legislation in place). Rabies is a fatal disease(for animals and humans) and a huge public health concern as it is readily transmitted to people. Cats are an important part of the equation since they are the biggest risk of spreading the virus. They most often are in contact with wild animals, such as raccoons, and have the ability to traipse from yard to yard facilitating the spread should they bite another animal or person. Administration of the vaccine by a licensed veterinarian is critical to insure that the vaccine is stored properly and given correctly. If not administered properly, the vaccine (and thus the law) is useless.

Puppy-Mill Bill - (House Bill 124/Senate Bill 95) - Many of you have likely heard about this issue. Various attempts have been made to pass such bills for the last few years. There are 2 current versions on the table, one in the House and one in the Senate. Basically the bills wish to enact legislation to regulate large scale breeding operations. Earlier attempts at legislation have failed. So, the OVMA has developed a new approach (this was discussed by veterinarians with legislators today), to respond to instances where breeders are not adequately addressing the welfare of their animals. The new "two tiered" approach recommended by the OVMA will divide the enforcement between local and state levels depending on the size of the breeding operations. This is a complicated bill and too much to go into here. But those are the basics. Not sure where this one is gonna go. Rep. Dodd said that cost is a big issue with enforcement and opponents are concerned that fees will not cover the maintenance of entities that will be in charge of enforcement. Also, another issue is how to determine which of the existing governmental entities will be in charge of enforcement or will a new group need to be formed to do the job.

"Pit-Bull" Bill (House Bill 79) - AH...the one we've all been waiting for. This bill (as most everyone knows) attempts to remove breed specific language from Ohio law. More specifically, removing "pit bulls" from the vicious dog definition in the Ohio Revised Code. The OVMA supports this bill (YAY!!), as does the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Assn.). There was much discussion with both Rep. Dodd and Sen. Schaffer today about this issue. Neither said they had a specific position on the matter, but both were very open to information concerning the issue. Some points that were discussed included problems with breed identification, propensity of a dog to be predisposed to aggression, nature-vs-nurture, breed temperament & temperament testing, owner responsibility (quality of care and supervision by owner and humane ownership), owner education, behavior and socialization, position points (against BSL) of various animal welfare related organizations, effectiveness of current breed-specific legislation, and cost of enforcement. Overall I think we made good progress during both meetings and put a lot of good information on the table.

Other issues were also touched on including House Bill 55, which will allow companion animals to be included in various types of protection orders as they pertain to domestic violence situations, and House Bill 70 which increases the penalty for animal cruelty for companion animals from a second degree misdemeanor to a 5th degree felony. Two important issues, especially since April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month.

I was so happy to have this opportunity today and I think it allowed us to get our "foot in the door" as far as being a part of the legislative process, promoting PROGRESS and really making a difference.

WHEW....well that's it, I think. Except for this...since the legislators seemed so open to hearing about these issues and genuinely seemed unaware of some of the more important points we discussed, it is imperative that we all contact Rep. Dodd, Sen. Schaffer and all of our local lawmakers to give them good information and make them aware of how their constituents feel about these matters. The more information we provide them the more informed decisions they can make on our behalf. (That's presuming that politics in general don't muck things up!!)

There is a hearing on HB 79 scheduled for next WEDNESDAY APRIL 29TH with the House Agriculture Committee at 9:30 am, the more the merrier.

Dr. Mandi...over and out.


Anonymous said...

Nice work gang. It's great to be making good strides on all of these bills with the state legislators. The "puppy mill" bills are always tough -- because I do always worry about them having too big of a negative impact on too many responsible breeders -- but I trust that you all have worded these appropriately.

Way to get involved...woo few people do, which causes way too many problems.

Dr. Mandi said...

Thanks! The puppy-mill bill is a tricky one. Fortunatly the OVMA has added restrictions to their bill recommendations so that responsible breeders are not targeted. They are also focusing on larger scale breeders with 7 or more intact breeding females.

notthistime said...

The current version of the puppy mill bill is bad. It will place extreme hardship on responsible, ethical breeders and if the wording regarding rescues is not changed, many rescues will be forced to cease operations

Dr. Mandi said...

That's one of the things that sparked the OVMA to make it's current recommendations to change what is already on the table. They don't think responsible/smaller scale breeders should be punished.

notthistime said...

Is there any way to see the amendments that are being suggested?

Dr. Mandi said...

You can email me at doctormandi@yahoo.com and I can send you a copy of the proposed changes.

These are the dogs of HELP FIDO...our dogs...this is why we are here...