By: Valerie Goddard, staff assistant, Governmental Relations Division
Congressman Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., is one of two veterinarians serving in Congress and is a co-chair for the House Veterinary Medicine Caucus. Schrader is currently serving his third term and is a member of the House Committees on Agriculture, Small Business, and Budget. He has sponsored the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act and the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act, and has cosponsored the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act and the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act—all legislation which AVMA is actively working to see passed.
Q: Do your colleagues generally seek your advice on issues concerning animal science or food safety and security?
Schrader: Frankly, not yet. That’s part of the reason we started the caucus. They’re not used to having veterinarians with our expertise in Congress. When Congressman Ted Yoho, R-Fla., or I speak up from a veterinary perspective, I sense that they listen a little more carefully, and we have the ability to sway their opinions—not on some emotional harangue—but actually based on the facts from what we’ve seen in the veterinary world or read in scientific papers. A lot of members would like to have some good, solid information, not something that’s politically colored, on some of the issues that affect veterinary medicine.
Q: Is there an issue or challenge that you encountered during your time as a practicing veterinarian that you would like to see addressed in the future
Schrader: I guess the biggest issue that I hope Ted and I are able to address is encouraging the use of veterinarians in industry, government and public health circles. I see a lot of my medical colleagues called upon in these areas as people retire and we are looking for new people to fill these public health and public service positions. I’d really like to see veterinarians take a big role there. Veterinarians have a better appreciation than some of the public health professionals for some of the zoonotic diseases and how to approach the epidemiology of zoonotic diseases, and that’s a big deal. This is an area where I’d like to see more of the younger generations of veterinarians get involved. It’s not just about private practice—there are great opportunities in government, industry and other aspects of the private sector that I think we’ve been missing the boat on so far in terms of encouraging veterinarians.
Q: Are there ways that your education and experience in veterinary medicine and animal science benefit the House Committees on which you serve?
Schrader: Yes, Ted and I are both on the Ag Committee so we have all of the livestock groups very interested in us. I’ve been engaged in trying to broker a deal between the Humane Society of the United States and the egg-laying community to bring some sort of order to federal regulation regarding the housing of egg-laying hens, and that’s something that, again, we have a unique veterinary perspective. We can get past the rhetoric and all the ‘he said/she said’ and just talk common sense. Our job is to broker a lot more common sense in these types of decisions that affect food safety, in particular, people’s health.
Q: Are there challenges or veterinary issues facing your state that you are concerned about?
Schrader: The thing that has come through at the veterinary level big time in my state and a lot of other states around the country is this ridiculous restriction by the Drug Enforcement Administration that veterinarians can’t carry controlled substances in their ambulatory rigs. That’s just ludicrous. It shows a complete lack of understanding by the DEA, which we’ve pointed out to them and the AVMA has been extremely helpful in that regard as well. We’ve introduced things in the Farm Bill that have caught their attention a little bit, but the DEA is still trying to backtrack, but frankly, not enough. They’re just trying to pat us on the head and tell us it’s going to be fine and at the end of the day we shouldn’t worry about it. But it’s really important to veterinarians and to the humane treatment of animals that we’re able to use the modern day controlled substances to alleviate the pain that goes with some of these tough procedures out in the field.
Veterinarians are straightforward people. Common sense dictates the way over ideology. Ted and I have very different political philosophies most of the time, but when it comes to common sense things that deal with animals and public welfare, such as the humane treatment of animals and the appropriate use of medications, that’s in our wheelhouse. Again, I think that’s where we can show our expertise and, hopefully, encourage Congress to make good, thoughtful decisions that help the veterinary industry and help people to deal with their animals.