The government shutdown is affecting crucial veterinary programs that ensure the welfare of animals and protect the public, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
The AVMA has called upon Congress to reopen the U.S. government so that the nation’s federal employees who promote the health and welfare of animals, guard the country against disease outbreaks and ensure food safety can get back to work.
“Not only is Congress affecting the lives of more than 800,000 federal employees by its lack of action, it is compromising the health and well-being of millions of animals,” says Ron DeHaven, DVM, AVMA’s chief executive officer. “Each day that the U.S. government is shut down, we are faced with a dwindling supply of available vaccines to keep livestock healthy, a lack of inspections that protect animals from abuse, and a dearth of food safety inspections. Our elected officials need to double down on their efforts to come to a bipartisan, bicameral agreement, and put Americans back to work so they can continue protecting the health and welfare of animals and the public.”
Many key veterinary programs have been affected by the government shutdown, including, but not limited to:
- The closure of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB), which verifies the safety of animal vaccines before releasing them into the marketplace. Most food-producing companies only hold a one- or two-week inventory of major vaccines, meaning that they could soon run out of their supply if the CVB is unable to release new batches after a two-week period. Food-animal producers may soon be forced not to vaccinate their flocks or herds, which will endanger herd health, food safety and public health.
- The APHIS office that conducts inspections of animal facilities such as pet breeders, zoos and research facilities to ensure that animals are being given the proper care, per the health and welfare guidelines set by the Animal Welfare Act, has been suspended.
- Though the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will continue carrying out food safety inspections of meat and poultry products, the Food and Drug Administration will cease operations of its program that inspects the safety of seafood and dairy products.
- Important research conducted by veterinary researchers approved for funding by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) may experience delays in receiving grants during the shutdown.
- The Centers for Disease Control, which monitors for foodborne illnesses, has been forced to reduce its staff, leaving the public more vulnerable to disease outbreaks.
“We look to our elected officials in Congress, especially those who are part of the U.S. House Veterinary Medicine Caucus, to exert their leadership and help Congress rise above the partisan bickering to do what is right for both Americans and our nation’s livestock and pets,” DeHaven says.