Concerns about animal health and welfare have been the focus of certain government departments for decades (e.g., USDA, FDA-CVM, state departments of agriculture and health, animal cruelty and control officers).  So announcements from New York City and Virginia about a newly appointed animal advocate in the NYC, and the establishment Animal Law Unit in the office of the Attorney General, respectively, should not surprise anyone.

“New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has tapped Jeff Dupee to handle animal issues, a move advocates said marks the first time the city has designated a point person for its four-legged inhabitants.”

Reportedly, “Dupee previously worked at Farm Sanctuary, a nonprofit focused on protecting farm animals and promoting vegan living.”

In Virginia, according to NBC News, “Attorney General Mark R. Herring has created the nation’s first attorney general’s Animal Law unit [to] work . . . with local law enforcement and state agencies on issues involving animal welfare, animal fighting or abuse.”

Hopefully the Animal Law unit will consult with animal health professionals, including veterinarians, who can provide necessary guidance, and prevent unintended disease spread, particularly from birds used for cock fighting.  These birds are known potential carriers of contagious pathogens like Exotic Newcastle disease or Avian Influenza virus.  Instead of the immediate seizure of these bird, sheltering in place, with adequate oversight, is preferred so that specific testing can be performed before potentially exposing other animals to infectious diseases.

In addition to these concerns, the unit should consider the health and welfare of dogs moving in and out of the state for adoption, a largely unregulated activity.  Recently, as CBS News reported, Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore, Chair of the Animal Welfare Committee for the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that “guidelines should be developed by veterinarians to ensure the welfare of transported animals” moving from state to state for adoption.

‘”There are people who would take advantage of people’s desire for a puppy and so there are some organizations that are simply bringing up truck loads of puppies because they can be sold – even a mutt – can be sold for $400, $500, $600 hundred dollars,’ said Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore.”

The care of animals has been important to citizens and governments alike for decades.  Hopefully, reasonable, science-based standards will be used as the basis for laws governing animal care, and attorneys and other officials will enforce those standards, in consultation with animal health professionals, where and when that expertise is needed.