Congratulations to USARK!

NAIA  and NAIA Trust are proud to announce a HUGE legal victory by one of our friends in the fight for animal owners’ rights. On April 7, 2017, the US Court of Appeals, DC District, ruled in favor of United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) over the US Fish and Wildlife Service, HSUS, and the Center for Biological Diversity. HSUS intervened in the case filed by USARK, thinking they could crush the little guy and got much more than they bargained for.

USARK advocates for the practice of responsible herpetoculture: the husbandry of reptiles & amphibians for conservation projects, zoos, museums, research facilities, education, and pets. The members practice conservation through captive breeding and work hard to preserve the right to do so.

Interpretation of a Federal law called the Lacey Act was the main dispute in this case. In 2013, USARK challenged a 2012 rule by the US Fish and Wildlife Service that designated 4 species of snakes as injurious under the Lacey Act. Four more species were added by a rule change in 2015, including the reticulated python and the green anaconda, and USARK amended their case. HSUS and Center for Biological Diversity began as only filing amicus briefs, which is basically interjecting an opinion but not actually participating as a party to the case. They later became intervening parties in 2015.

Green Anaconda

Green Anaconda

The Lacey Act is a longstanding Federal law that was enacted in 1900, with the principal “object and purpose” to “regulate the introduction of American or foreign birds or animals into localities where they have not heretofore existed.” The Act created a criminal prohibition against importation into the US of certain species, and the empowerment to declare species injurious and add them to regulation as needed. In 1960, the criminalization section was codified and clarified, but as too often happens in the law, was unintentionally made clear as mud.

The precise wording in the code prohibits “any shipment between the continental United States, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any possession of the United States.” This small sentence and its interpretation was the entire issue here. FWS recently decided to interpret the sentence to bar shipments not only from other countries into the listed locales and between the listed locales, but also between the 49 continental US states. HSUS and CBD supported this interpretation, USARK disagreed.

Injunctive relief was awarded by the D.C. District Court to USARK and its members in May 2015, which FWS, HSUS and CBD then challenged through appeal. The Federal Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court decision.

The Court used a plain language interpretation to come to their decision. The Court found that the use of the word “between” introduced the list with a one-to-one relationship between the listed items. It does not speak to the relationships within any listed objects, but prohibits one-to-one within the list. The court gave the example of there being no games between the NFL teams, MLB teams, and NBA teams. While there will not be football v baseball games or baseball v basketball games, there will be games between football teams themselves and so on.

The same goes for shipment under the Lacey Act—it does not speak to shipment WITHIN one of the listed jurisdictions but BETWEEN only the listed jurisdictions, such as between Hawaii and the continental US states. If there had been intent for the law to mean interstate, there would have been no need to reference Hawaii separate from the continental US. Not only did the court interpret the plain language, but looked to the history of the Lacey Act overall and found that to also be consistent with the plain language interpretation as well. The Lacey Act originally addressed only foreign species but as the country and travel evolved, limited it by land space further: barring shipments from other countries and between islands to the continental US.

Although this ruling has withheld entry of final judgment while the time lapses for the FWS, HSUS, and/or CBD to file an appeal, the likelihood of one being granted to even hear the case much less win on the merits is quite low. There are some side issues to be clarified still under this preliminary injunction, but bottom line is that this was a major victory for USARK. The Court (consisting of a three-judge panel) ruled unanimously in their favor. The years of hard work, perseverance, and let’s be honest, the funding it takes to fight a case of this magnitude for this long, has been well worth it. We congratulate USARK on a very hard earned and momentous victory!

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Hope for Humans and Dogs with Genetic Disorders

X-linked myotubular myopathy is a particularly nasty genetic disorder. It affects boys who seem healthy at birth, only to have their muscles waste away until they can’t support their bodies anymore — or even breathe — over the course of a few years. Humans are not the only animal with the mutation that causes this disorder. Puppies (also male) suffer and ultimately die from it, as well. But from tragedy, scientists are now bringing us hope: if these affected puppies can teach us how to treat x-linked myotubular myopathy, both species will ultimately benefit:

Gene Therapy Saves Puppies From A Fatal Disease—And Maybe Us Next

The dogs who were given a treatment that repaired their defective myotubularin gene avoided the crippling muscle degeneration that killed the placebo-treated dogs by week 17. And by the ninth month of study, the saved puppies’ muscle and neurological function continued to match readings from healthy dogs, particularly for those that got the highest doses.

The findings, building on an earlier proof-of-concept study of dogs and mice by the researchers, signal that a scaled-up treatment could save the lives of boys with the same sort of genetic flaw.

X-Linked Myotubular Myopathy Affects both young

X-linked myotubular myopathy affects young boys, both human and canine. We would love to see a world where neither have to suffer from it.

Animal science working at the genetic level to improve the welfare and lives of multiple species — this is just some fantastic work!

PS. if you were at our annual conference last November and this sounds familiar, you aren’t imagining it — there was an inspiring (and tear-jerking) presentation about the animal-based research that is bringing us closer to a cure for x-linked myotubular myopathy. This would be a good time to remind you to plan for the 2017 NAIA conference, Oct 2-4 in Washington DC!

 

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A Little More on Service Dogs…

On Friday, we mentioned that Wyoming is considering a bill to make misrepresenting a service animal a misdemeanor, a law that is no doubt simple common sense for many. Then, like clockwork, the story of Patsy Hayes and her latex-detection dog, Andromeda popped up the next day. Patsy Hayes is severely allergic to latex, and Andromeda lets her know latex is nearby, in order to steer clear of it. This story is a timely reminder of the value of service dogs, and of the varied, perhaps unexpected services they can perform.

The word “allergy” conjures up images of swollen eyes, dripping noses, maybe a rash — and in most cases, that is the extent of an allergic reaction. But anaphylaxis, Patsy’s reaction to latex, is far more severe: it can be life-threatening and brought on by extremely low levels of exposure.

Living with severe allergies can be extremely life-limiting, but a detection dog can help to open doors:

Years of training dogs to detect explosives and narcotics for the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies led Gavin to branch out in 2009 and focus on teaching dogs to detect an array of compounds — including nuts, milk, wheat, eggs and soy — that create serious allergic reactions in her clients.

Some of the afflicted, she said, rarely left their homes, didn’t go to school or movies, parks or churches — or even visit friends — out of fear of an allergy attack.

“But after getting a dog,” Gavin said, “they would start going places.”

Not the service dog of yesteryear, but a valuable job indeed!

cciServiceDog

Service Dog! Canine Companions for Independence

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Feb 17, 2017 - Animal Law    No Comments

Misrepresenting Pets as Service Animals Could Become Misdemeanor in WY

In Cheyenne, Wyoming, misrepresenting a pet as a service animal may become a misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $750.

For some, issues like this inevitably evoke sarcastic responses: “Government is focusing on fake service animals now? So this must mean we’ve solved unemployment, industrial pollution, and homelessness, right? Har har har.”

But we are glad to see this issue addressed. Pets posing as service animals de-legitimizes real service animals and their work, and that comes with real consequences. Consequences for the public, for businesses, for tenants and landlords, and most importantly, for these wonderful animals and the people who depend on them their well-being and independence.

 

Good chance this dog is a great pet. Almost zero chance this dog is a service animal.

Good chance this dog is a great pet. Near certain chance this dog is not a service animal.

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Jan 14, 2017 - Veterinary Issues    No Comments

AVMA HOD Passes Resolution That Supports Responsible Breeders!

Great news: the American Veterinary Medical Association House of Delegates (AVMA HOD) has passed a resolution amendment that supports responsible breeders!

Amendment 2:

“To maximize the health and welfare of companion animals, the AVMA supports research in genetic and inherited disorders to better educate the profession and breeders on identifying and minimizing inherited disorders in companion animal breeding programs. To assist with this, the AVMA encourages veterinarians to pursue continuing education in the emerging area of genetic disease in companion animals. The AVMA also encourages veterinarians to educate breeders, companion animal owners, and the public on the responsibilities involved with breeding and selecting companion animals.”

This resolution amendment replaces an earlier breeder proposal that, while no doubt well-intentioned, was problematic due to its imprecise language and potential for unintended consequences.

VetAndDogBlog

Education, cooperation, and trust between animal experts will lead to happier, healthier animals, and this resolution amendment expresses that ideal admirably. We thank the AVMA HOD and all people involved who helped — the AKC and various AKC dog clubs, NAIA supporters and board members (with a big hat tip to Drs. Arnold Goldman and Marty Greer, and to Julian Prager), as well as individual letter writers!

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Dec 20, 2016 - Animal Law    No Comments

Judge Refuses to View Pet Dispute as Child Custody Case

While acknowledging that dogs are treated as members of the family, a Saskatoon (Canada) Judge has emphatically refused to view a divorcing couple’s dispute about pet ownership as a child custody case.

The judge said this sort of case should not be chewing up precious court time “in a justice system that is incredibly busy, where delay has virtually become systemic.”

“To consume scarce judicial resources with this matter is wasteful. In my view such applications should be discouraged,” he added.

judgedog

Don’t waste my time.

The judge also wisely got in front of the old “Dogs are property under the law, viewed just like an old table or can opener!” canard by pointing out that we are most certainly not legally entitled to treat them (or other pets) in a cruel or neglectful manner.

Of course we all love our pets and consider them part of the family, but from a legal standpoint, we couldn’t agree more with the judge that claims like this are a waste of time, talent, and resources.

 

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Dec 16, 2016 - Veterinary Issues    No Comments

AVMA Launches Cyberbullying Hotline, Online Reputation Management Service

If you are reading this blog, you no doubt know at least a few veterinarians (or hey, maybe you are a veterinarian!), so do a quick mental survey and ask yourself: do you know anybody — anybody — who pursued the profession out of a desire to “butcher” or “mutilate” animals? Think hard now! OK, didn’t think so. As with any profession, veterinarians differ in skill, experience, and temperament, but you are going to be extremely hard-pressed to find one who doesn’t care deeply about healing animals and improving their quality of life.

The simple fact of the matter is, if somebody is willing to commit the kind of time and energy it takes to become a veterinarian, they probably like animals. This doesn’t stop detractors from assuming bad intentions or cruelty on the part of veterinarians, or even smearing their reputation, however: according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 20% of AVMA members report that they have been cyberbullied or received false reviews.

Cyberbullying and false claims doesn’t merely harm on a professional level, they are psychologically damaging, and in at least one tragic instance, harassment was a contributing factor in a veterinarian’s suicide. This is a lot more serious than a snarky Yelp review. So to address this growing issue, the AVMA has responded by launching a new hotline and reputation management service to help veterinarians fight back against cyberbullying.

Veterinarian Checking Kitten

Having worked for more than a quarter century educating the public on the difference between animal rights and animal welfare, having exposed deceit and hypocrisy on the part of animal extremists, it’s safe to say we know a little something about how nasty and personal things can become in the world of animal ethics. It remains to be seen how effective these programs will be at protecting veterinarians from abuse and false reviews, but addressing the issue itself is essential, and we hope the AVMA is successful.

We asked NAIA board member Arnold Goldman, DVM, MPH, his thoughts on these new programs, and he was decidedly enthusiastic in his response:

As veterinarians serve animal owners and their animals in the public square, they are just as vulnerable to malicious behavior by those with an agenda, as is anyone else. While thoughtful people may disagree on what constitutes good public policy, or proper animal care, no one should be subject to personal attacks online or otherwise. Unfortunately there are those in our society who may act thoughtlessly or unkindly towards those they may disagree with, or those who they feel may have wronged them. In today’s digital world, cyber-bullying is a favored tactic for those individuals. I am proud that the AVMA, my national professional society, has been and continues to be a leader in providing its members, my colleagues, with the resources necessary to protect themselves from unfair and unkind online attacks. As such, AVMA provides its members a hotline as well as on demand reputation management counseling. For this reason, and so many others, every veterinarian should be a member of AVMA. AVMA stands up for the veterinary profession.

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Oct 25, 2016 - Animal Research    No Comments

Congratulations to NAIA Board Member Dr. Robert Speth!

Big congratulations are in order for Nova Southeastern University (NSU) professor of pharmacology, bioethicist, and NAIA Board Member Dr. Robert Speth, who just received NSU’s Sixth Annual Provost’s Research and Scholarship Award!

This award is to honor NSU faculty members who have demonstrated “significant achievement in support of NSU’s mission to foster scholarship, intellectual inquiry, and academic excellence.” Provost Ralph V. Rogers Jr., PhD, had these glowing words for Dr. Speth:

Dr. Speth has distinguished himself as a researcher, an educator, and a staunch supporter of the NSU community. He has truly demonstrated what this award is meant to recognize: innovative and sustained activities in support of NSU’s mission to foster intellectual inquiry, academic excellence, research and a dynamic learning environment.

Dr. Robert Speth Receiving Award

Photo caption (left to right): Ralph V. Rogers Jr., Ph.D., NSU executive vice president and provost; Robert C. Speth, Ph.D.; Lisa Deziel, Pharm.D., Ph.D., dean, NSU College of Pharmacy; Stanley Cohen, Ed.D., nominator; George L. Hanbury II, Ph.D., NSU president & CEO.

Dr. Speth’s is known for his work studying brain receptors for neurotransmitters and hormones. He focuses on the hormone angiotensin, which causes hypertension. His research has shown that receptors for angiotensin in the brain are strategically located to stimulate nerves that act upon the cardiovascular system to raise blood pressure. He is also widely recognized as a resource on the ethics of animal research. We are proud to have Dr. Speth as a board member, and thrilled to see him receive this prestigious reward!

 

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Sep 19, 2016 - Shelter & Rescue    No Comments

Risks of unfettered dog importation recognized by Canadian veterinarians

Just a quick shout-out here for the veterinarians and other experts in Canada who are speaking out on the risks associated with willy-nilly dog importation.

What is so important here are the factors involved:

  • Risks have been outlined (exotic illnesses and parasites that can affect dogs, humans, and other animals– e.g. Brucella canis and Leishmaniasis)
  • Realistic solutions have been targeted (you can’t stop all dogs from moving between different countries and regions, so what is the “low hanging fruit” that can be plucked and reduce the risks?)
  • These goals are cooperative in nature (veterinarians, border security, rescues, and breeders who ship animals are all being called on to do their part)

 

And also a big “YES!” to Bragg Creek veterinarian Judith Samson-French, who speaks to the importance of promoting local rescue, while solving foreign problems at the source:

“We are actually enabling a problem elsewhere because people need to learn to spay and neuter their dogs and how to help the overpopulation of dogs,” the veterinarian said.

“If we always take care of the problem from the outside, it never brings a solution from the inside… [We should] lend resources, in terms of knowledge and financial help, to do that.”

Of course, solving issues like this is much harder than outlining a good plan, but recognizing a serious issue and taking a firm stand is an excellent start!

 

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