Mark’s Blog

Another court opinion scaring folks about the status of pets as property

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Judges’ comments meant to explain why the state of Oregon is hard on animal abusers, not change longheld precedent.

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My last blog analyzed a Georgia Supreme Court opinion about damages for the loss of a pet. Animal health publications and blogs were wringing their hands about the implications of this decision for the longstanding rule of no recovery of non-economic (emotional) damages for the negligent injury or death of a pet.

I spend part of every week defending the veterinary industry from legislative mischief, so I closely read the case to see if it portended the harm that I’d been warned about by colleagues. Fortunately, the Georgia Supreme Court did no such thing and the law against non-economic damages is alive and well in the Peach State.

This week the culprit is the Oregon Supreme Court in State of Oregon vs. Amanda Newcomb.

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I repeat: the Georgia Supreme Court did not change law regarding non-economic damages.

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Court rules unique human-animal bond is beyond legal measure, but pet owners may recover costs of medical care and fair market value.

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Over the past 10 days, much attention has been devoted to a Georgia Supreme Court decision in which a boarding kennel was accused of causing the death of one of its boarders, a dachshund, due to negligence.

Readers should take a deep breath and exhale. The court did not change existing law barring the recovery of emotional or sentimental damages.

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Here’s one political cause veterinarians can support wholeheartedly

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Congressman and veterinarian Kurt Schrader needs your help in his reelection campaign.

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It’s hard to think about any political topic other than the presidential primaries these days. The two-year race for party nominations dominates the political landscape in unprecedented ways: money, media, phone calls, office conversations—however you measure it, it’s off the charts.

But there is something else going on of real concern for veterinarians, so with your indulgence please remove the presidential blinders for a moment and consider this.

The veterinary and animal health industry has no greater champion Congressman Kurt Schrader, DVM, of Oregon. Kurt is a successful veterinarian and embodies the classic idea of a citizen legislator. He was a leader in the Oregon state legislature and now represents a truly bipartisan philosophy in Congress at a time when bipartisanship is in short supply— perhaps even dying.

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After nine innings, debate over veterinary college accreditation is over

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Four resolutions targeting COE defeated by AVMA House of Delegates.

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For nearly four years, a group of critics within the profession has attacked The American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (AVMA COE) and its role in accrediting veterinary colleges. Although the critics numbered less than 1 percent of the profession, they managed to place their issues at center stage for veterinary discussions all these years. That changed July 10 in Boston with the actions of the AVMA House of Delegates.

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COE needs to abandon ship on proposed new rules for veterinary faculty

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Shift in focus from preparing graduates to publishing in academic journals is not in the profession’s interest. Plus it’s impossible.

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The American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (AVMA COE) will no doubt receive many comments about its proposed changes to the veterinary school accreditation process. I will keep mine to a minimum, focusing on the facuty obligations related to peer-reviewed research. Let me begin by quoting the portion of the proposed new rules to which my comments are directed:

12.10.3 Faculty

The majority of full-time faculty (including those at distributed sites and in the curricular component (professional courses, journal clubs) must be engaged in research that results in peer-reviewed scholarship. A majority of full-time faculty engaged in teaching students must publish (or confirm to have in-press) as senior or co-author at least one peer-reviewed scientific manuscript each year. A majority of full-time faculty must have sought or have acquired research funding each year.

First, the question is where is the impetus for such a radical restructuring of veterinary education in the United States? At a period of high student debt with veterinary employers and the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium demanding more practice-ready graduates, the proposed new rules require that schools instead shift their focus to producing traditional research scholarship for academic journals. I have scoured veterinary-related media from the past five years, and other than the COE’s handful of fiercest critics, no one has called for such a sea change in how students are prepared to deliver healthcare to American pet owners and farmers.

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Pope Francis needs a pet … seriously.

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Comments reveal lack of understanding of the human-animal bond.

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My 92-year-old Irish Catholic mother isn’t going to like this blog. You see, Pope Francis is her main man. But I can’t resist after reading the pope’s astonishing comments about pets and pet ownership in a recent interview.

The pope apparently was shocked when he read about how people spend their money. “After food, clothing and medicine,” he said, “the fourth item is cosmetics and the fifth is pets. That’s serious.”

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After 2.5 years studying pet meds market, FTC calls … drumroll … for more study

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Report presents misguided conclusions but does not demand federal legislation mandating veterinary prescriptions.

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Report presents misguided conclusions but does not demand federal legislation mandating veterinary prescriptions.

On May 27 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) finally issued its report on pet medications stemming from its Oct. 4, 2012, workshop on the topic in Washington, D.C. Industry observers and participants (including this blogger) have been waiting for 30-plus months to hear what the FTC had to say, and now we know. I will write about this flawed report in more depth in coming weeks, but let me set the stage for dvm360 readers at the grass-tops level, not down in the policy weeds.

First and foremost, the FTC did not come out with guns blazing and call for federal legislation. This had to disappoint critics of the veterinary profession and those lobbying for the latest versions of bills in Congress demanding portable prescriptions for every veterinary drug prescribed. These bills have generated virtually no interest in the U.S. House or Senate since they were first introduced back in 2010, and their advocates keenly waited for an FTC report that could pump some fuel into the legislative engine. That did not happen with this report.

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Connecticut legislature launches veterinary sales tax effort

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Veterinarians’, pet owners’ input needed before June 3 session close date.

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Many state legislatures are winding down for 2015, but Connecticut threw a curve ball at the veterinary profession and pet owners as it barrels toward a June 3 end date. On April 30, the Connecticut Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding surprised everyone and dropped a veterinary services sales tax in to a nondescript government-financing bill (S.B. 946), which would effectively add 6.35 percent to every pet owner’s bill for services in the Nutmeg State.

This surprise was designed to solve a political problem in a tax-heavy state by lowering certain taxes while adding a long list of professional and consumer services to the tax rolls. Other professions such as accounting jumped into the fray, but no group has engaged more effectively and rapidly than veterinarians. The Connecticut VMA organized a broad grassroots response initiative and, most importantly, showed up in droves at a May 11 hearing to challenge the tax.

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A peek at veterinary education and a political update

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Cushing visits five veterinary schools and notes a current quiet on the legislative front.

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Apologies for this blogger’s recent absence, but a delightful speaking tour of U.S. veterinary colleges has distracted me from my usual posts. Seems an opportune time to comment on recent doings.

The state of American veterinary education is in good shape, despite catcalls from critics. After visiting five schools (Purdue, Tufts, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Mississippi State), I found graduating students have multiple job offers, practice ownership is returning as a career path of interest, awareness grows of strategies to tackle student debt, schools and students are pursuing expanded opportunities for rural mixed animal practices, communication training is picking up speed, school after school is increasing the number of spay/neuter surgeries performed before hitting the job market (some provide up to as many as 70 soft tissue surgeries pre-graduation), and faculty and students alike are pushing the envelope for more public health opportunities for veterinarians and turning One Health from a grand concept to a strategic, practical career path. It was a diverse and inspiring trip.

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