Among the “values and objectives that are still revered” by the 85-year-old Florida Veterinary Medical Association is “to further the education of its members.” So why is the organization going out of its way to misinform them about House Bill 1121, “The Community Cat Act”?
The bill, authored by Best Friends Animal Society and supported by Alley Cat Allies and the Humane Society of the United States, made it through the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee with unanimous approval last week—despite opposition from, among others, Audubon Florida (which was trying to make the most of the Smithsonian/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service paper before too many people start asking questions).
Then came the FVMA with their “concerns.”
As Best Friends co-founder Francis Battista put it in his blog post Tuesday, the FVMA’s list of objections (PDF) “suggest[s] that they either didn’t actually read the bill or that there is another reason for their opposition about which they’d rather not speak.” Laura Nirenberg, legislative attorney for Best Friends, put together a document that addresses each point in detail (PDF). Here, I’ll look at just two of them.
The FVMA claims that the Community Cat Act “endangers public health (especially children and the elderly),” and focuses specifically on rabies. It’s clear from Florida Department of Health reporting, however, that any such concerns are overblown: the number of rabid cats reported in the state is essentially unchanged from what it was 20 years ago—despite a 45 percent increase in human population.  More people, more pets, more interactions with wildlife—and more TNR. So, where’s this threat of rabies we keep hearing about?
But let’s say for a moment that the threat is real. If the FVMA is so deeply committed to protecting the public from free-roaming cats, then shouldn’t they actually… you know, be doing something about it?
Instead, they’re just getting in the way of the people who are doing something about it.
Surgeries by Unlicensed Caregivers
Honestly, this one’s hardly worth spending any time on, but it’s simply too absurd not to at least mention. “The Senate bill as written will allow unlicensed ‘community cat caregivers’ to perform medical and surgical procedures on cats,” claims the FVMA, “allowing the practice of veterinary medicine without a license.” In fact—and it’s troubling that this even needs to be pointed out—the Community Cat Act does no such thing.
“Additionally,” notes Nirenberg in her response, “HB 1121 was amended to delete all reference to liability immunity. The same will be done to SB 1320, so this point is moot.”
To Promote and Protect
So what’s really behind the FVMA’s objections to this legislation?
I agree with Battista: “when explanations fail to explain and rationales are not rational… then the most logical explanation can usually be found by following the money.” This, after all, seems to be what’s driving the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation’s opposition to TNR in that Florida county.
Which, interestingly, brings us back to those “values and objectives that are still revered” by the FVMA. Second on the seven-point list is: “To promote and protect the profession of veterinary medicine”—well ahead of the only mention of “humane treatment of animals.”
1. n.a., 2010 Florida Morbidity Statistics Report. 2011, Florida Department of Health, Division of Disease Control, Bureau of Epidemiology: Tallahassee, FL. http://www.doh.state.fl.us/disease_ctrl/epi/Morbidity_Report/2010/2010_AMR.pdf