AVMA Supports Legislation to Combat Animal, Human Disease

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) applauds new legislation introduced on Capitol Hill that could help stop the next outbreak of avian influenza or foot-and-mouth disease by providing a more stable flow of resources for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), which monitors animal-borne illnesses that pose significant threats to animal and public health.

“The American Veterinary Medical Association strongly supports the Animal and Public Health Protection Act,” says Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA, the CEO of the AVMA. “A robust NAHLN will help control any potential catastrophic disease outbreak, limit the spread of disease and, as a result, limit the diseases’ impact on public health, animal suffering, interruption of the food supply, and help ensure the financial health of livestock and related industries. The AVMA has long prioritized the NAHLN in its advocacy efforts concerning the Farm Bill and annual appropriations.”

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) introduced the Animal and Public Health Protection Act, S 859, on May 6 to protect the NAHLN against the uncertainty of Congress’ yearly budgeting process.

“Livestock production sits at the heart of Colorado’s $40 billion agriculture sector,” says Bennet, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Labs, like the ones at Colorado State University, help support the economic vitality of our livestock industry and protect the public by identifying diseases early and preventing the consequences of potentially devastating outbreaks. This commonsense, yet vital, research yields tremendous economic and public health benefits to Colorado and the entire country.”

In addition to the AVMA, the Animal and Public Health Protection Act, S 859, has the full support of a number of important organization, including the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD), the United States Animal Health Association, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.

“In 2010, Congress unexpectedly cut infrastructure funding for the NAHLN, which seriously jeopardized the national disease surveillance work that veterinary diagnostic laboratories throughout the country do to protect our food supply and the public from disease,” explains Tim Baszler, DVM, PhD, immediate past president of the AAVLD and director of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “The Animal and Public Health Protection Act would restore full funding for this vital early-warning system for emerging and high-consequence diseases detrimental to both animal and public health."

The NAHLN was developed in response to the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 and the Homeland Security Presidential Directive / HSPD-9 of 2004 to “develop nationwide laboratory networks for food, veterinary, plant health and water quality that integrate existing federal and state laboratory resources, are interconnected, and utilize standardized diagnostic protocols and procedures.” It is a cooperative effort between the USDA and the AAVLD and is composed of federal, university, and state veterinary diagnostic laboratories.

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