The 2016 presidential election is shaping up to be a remarkable and unforgettable event. There are numerous controversial political topics being addressed, including typical “big ticket” items such as healthcare, gun control, and national security.
I raise no concern with a country that prioritizes the aforementioned matters with respect to political affiliation. However, I’m disappointed that our current candidates rarely voice opinions regarding their agenda for supporting animal welfare or veterinary medicine. I therefore must question our values when we place greater emphasis on deciding which presidential candidate’s wife would make a more attractive first lady than caring about matters related to animals, their healthcare, and their caretakers.
With a bit of probing, I successfully uncovered several political issues related to animals that have direct bearing on the lives of both veterinarians and pet owners that are currently up for consideration. Not surprisingly, however, I failed to discover exactly where the individuals vying to be the next president stand on the topics.
Of the concerns I came across, the following represent those where a “veterinary favorable” stance from a potential candidate would certainly positively influence my vote towards supporting their campaign:
The first consideration is the “Fairness to Pet Owners Act.” This piece of legislation was introduced in the House in July 2015 and “Directs the Federal Trade Commission to require prescribers of animal drugs to verify prescriptions and provide copies of prescriptions to pet owners, pet owner designees, and pharmacies, without the prescriber demanding payment or establishing other conditions.”
Proponents of the bill argue veterinarians discourage pet owners from filling prescriptions outside of their office in order to promote their own financial gain.
Many veterinarians feel this bill is unnecessary because they already offer owners the option of filling prescriptions elsewhere. They also are concerned about how it creates an administrative burden for themselves and their staff in cases where a certain medication is only available through a veterinarian or when an owner wishes to have the medication dispensed from their vet. The is because the bill requires veterinarians to write a prescription and present it to the owner first, then take the script back and dispense the medication if that is the owner’s choice.
Another proposed regulation is the “Pet and Women Safety Act.” This legislation will “expand federal law to include protections for pets of domestic violence victims and establish a federal grant program that will help ensure that victims have access to safe shelters for their pets.”
Specifically, the bill aims to assist both female and male victims with pets by: making threats against pets a stalking related crime, providing grant funding to increase the availability of housing for victims and their pets, encouraging states to provide coverage for pets under protection orders, and requiring abusers who harm pets to pay veterinary and other expenses incurred as a result.
The link between animal abuse and domestic violence is well established. Human victims of abuse often face the decision of leaving their current situation without their pets or staying to ensure their companions receive the veterinary care they require. This bill would provide protection for animals, increase availability of sheltering options for pets, and shift the financial responsibility towards the abuser.
There are also several proposed bills related to veterinary professional and educational issues, including the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), which provides educational loan repayment to veterinarians who agree to practice in areas of the U.S., as designated by the USDA, where there is a shortage of veterinarians.
This legislation would make the VMLRP loan repayment awards exempt from a federal withholding tax, allowing more veterinarians the opportunity to participate in the program. Currently, awards are subject to 39 percent withholding tax.
The Student Loan Interest Deduction Act and Student Loan Refinancing Act are examples of proposed legislation designed to lessen the burden recent veterinary school graduates face regarding their educational debt.
The current candidates vying for nomination for their respective political parties do not have animal welfare issues on the forefront of their campaign trails. Therefore it’s difficult to determine where each stands on the above mentioned proposed legislations.
According to the Humane Society Legislation Fund, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders hold the highest ratings regarding their voting record in the U.S. Senate. Whether that would translate to anything positive should they be elected president remains to be determined.
How a particular presidential candidate stands on animal welfare issues wouldn’t be the primary measure of whom I would decide to vote for, but it does allow the opportunity to gain a better understanding of what is personally important to each candidate.
And it helps to provide a sense responsibility, integrity, and value for those of us who dedicate our lives towards promoting the importance of the human-animal bond and the sanctity of healthcare for pets.