Minnesota animal welfare advocates and the state’s largest veterinarian group have expressed different opinions on the proposed creation of a new companion animal board.
With a dramatic increase in pet ownership during the Covid pandemic, some key animal organizations are calling for a new committee to specifically focus on the welfare and protection of pets across the state. But the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association has expressed concern over the plans, which they believe could ‘muddy the water’ when it comes to animal welfare.
Domestic pets currently fall under the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, which covers all livestock within the state. The proposed new plans revealed at a recent press conference will see the creation of a 13-member board appointed by the State Governor, which would include representatives of breeders, animal shelters, and rescue organizations, as well as veterinarians.
State Senator Carrie Ruud of Breezy Point said that as pets are not livestock, a new board was needed to protect pets beyond ‘getting sick or spreading disease’. She is now sponsoring a bill that would see the creation of an additional animal welfare board aimed at tackling cruelty to animals and neglect.
Supporters of the proposal claim that the current board focuses on clinical animal health and doesn’t address other issues such as animal welfare concerns and the transport of adopted pets from outside the state. They see the new board as filling this shortfall, covering a wide range of animal welfare issues, from respite care for pets of people with serious illness to working to develop spaying and neutering services.
CEO of the Animal Humane Society based in Golden Valley, Janelle Dixon, said she was also concerned that communities are unable to cope with too many strays and feral cats.
“There are no resources at the state level to help understand the issue and how to best address it,” she added.
Golden Valley DFL Rep. Mike Freiberg, who is carrying the bill in the House, said the increased size of the pet population meant the need for a different stance by the state government.
However, the proposed new board has received opposition from some veterinarians. The Minnesota Veterinarian Medical Association has raised concerns that it could ‘muddy the waters’ when it came to animal welfare.
They stated that the veterinary expertise represented by the Board of Animal Health is ‘the foundation for animal welfare’.
‘This really complicates and muddies the water,” said Eric Ruhland, who runs a veterinarian practice in St. Paul. He added that just monitoring the transportation or distribution of adoptive dogs was not enough to keep them safe and healthy.
Association members were also concerned that the new companion animal board could eventually find itself contending with agricultural regulations.
“We have heard a lot from our large animal veterinarians, the concern there for their producers and their profession,” added the association’s, Kelly Andrews.
The proposed animal companion bill has so far received limited support. Having passed through the House State Government committee, it has still to gain a Republican author.
The Senate version has DFL, GOP, and independent support. A hearing, however, has yet to be set.