The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) commends newly introduced federal legislation that seeks to develop affordable and well-qualified opportunities for individuals who are interested in careers as wildlife and zoo veterinarians, as well as spur job growth.
The Wildlife and Zoological Veterinary Medicine Enhancement Act, introduced Jan. 21 by Congressman Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., will help bolster the nation’s supply of veterinarians specializing in the care of wildlife and zoo animals, the AVMA says.
W. Ron DeHaven, DVM, AVMA chief executive officer, says this legislation will strengthen curriculum in veterinary schools, adding, “It will create opportunities for our veterinary graduates to work in the areas in which they have studied, and it will protect both animals and people.”
According to the legislation, it serves four main purposes:
• Create new funded positions for wildlife and zoological veterinarians.
• Limit the amount of educational debt for veterinary medicine students while providing incentives to study and practice wildlife or zoological veterinary medicine.
• Help schools and colleges of veterinary medicine develop pilot curricula specializing in wildlife and zoological veterinary medicine.
• Expand the number of training programs in wildlife or zoological veterinary medicine for veterinary students.
According to the AVMA, graduating veterinary student loan debt averaged $130,000 in 2009. On top of that, the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians says salaries for wildlife and zoological veterinarians are relatively low compared to the average salaries of veterinarians in companion animal medicine.
“We need to grow the workforce, and the veterinary students with a desire to practice in the fields of wildlife and zoo veterinary medicine need to get the experience necessary in disease research, surveillance, prevention and treatment,” DeHaven says. “This legislation will help make that possible.”
The legislation also has the support of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, the American Association of Zoological Veterinarians, the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians and the National Association of Federal Veterinarians.