Animal welfare

Animal welfare advocates and veterinarians differ on advice offered for pets

As pet ownership has skyrocketed during the COVID pandemic, some animal welfare organizations say it’s time to find a new way to keep pets healthier and safer. But the state’s largest group of veterinarians argues that a new pet council would only cloud efforts to protect dogs, cats and other companion animals in the state.

“We know that the [Minnesota] The Animal Health Board does a really good job with what it does,” said State Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point.

At a press conference on Tuesday, with squeaky puppies, Ruud continued, “But we think it’s not cattle. And [the Board of Animal Health’s] the focus is on livestock, and their mission is to keep the food source in the state of Minnesota healthy.”

Ruud is sponsoring a bill that would create an additional branch of government for animal welfare aimed at reducing cruelty to animals and neglect, beyond preventing them from getting sick or spreading disease.

The 13-member governor-appointed council would include veterinarians as well as representatives from breeders, rescue organizations and animal shelters.

Advocates say the focus on clinical animal health does not address issues such as the safe transportation of adoptable out-of-state pets, among other animal welfare issues.

Janelle Dixon, CEO of the Golden Valley-based Animal Humane Society, sees communities unable to cope with too many stray and feral cats.

“There are no resources at the state level to help understand the problem and the best way to fix it,” Dixon said. “Some cities are considering a feeding ban. Some are considering large-scale euthanasia for stray cats. Others would like to find ways to trap and sterilize these animals.

The puppies and kittens brought together DFL State Rep. Mike Freiberg of Golden Valley and GOP State Senator Carrie Ruud of Breezy Point to call for a new state council on Tuesday. responsible for caring for the welfare of pets, with a focus on pets. They argue a 13-member pet council would complement Minnesota’s existing animal health board, though the state’s veterinary trade group is concerned pet regulations could be expanded to interfere with the livestock industry.

Tim Nelson | MPR News

Proponents say a pet council could serve as a resource for that and for everything from developing respite care for pets of seriously ill people to helping find neutering and neutering services. .

Golden Valley DFL Rep. Mike Freiberg, who is bringing the bill to the House, said the sheer size of the pet population and changing attitudes toward animals call for a different stance on the part of of the state government.

“There is no place in the state to address companion animal issues and the unique bond between humans and animals,” Freiberg said.

But some vets are opposed to new advice.

The Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association said veterinary expertise, represented by the longstanding Board of Animal Health, is the foundation of animal welfare.

“In wellness situations, we can always do better. But it really complicates and clouds the water,” said Eric Ruhland, a veterinarian with a practice in St. Paul.

Ruhland said dogs brought to Minnesota for adoption, a common practice, can pose a serious risk of spreading disease. He adds that simply monitoring their transportation or distribution is not enough to keep dogs healthy and safe.

Ruhland worries that even though the bill specifically excludes farm animals, it’s possible that a neighbor’s consideration for a flock of backyard chickens means the family across the alley gets flagged for slaughtering and eating his own birds.

Members of the Veterinary Medical Association are concerned that the pet council will eventually face agricultural regulations, for monitoring animals like cows and pigs.

“We’ve heard a lot about our large animal veterinarians, who are worried about their producers and their profession,” said the association’s chief executive, Kelly Andrews.

So far, the bill has had limited support: It passed the House State Government Committee, but has no Republican sponsor. The Senate version has DFL, GOP and independent support, but no audience yet.

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