April 17, 2013

“Laws Don’t Matter”

By Zachary Kern

Believe it or not, I thought laws didn’t matter for about 67% of my life.  I mean, I got that it was illegal if I steal your donut, or punch a cat, or murder someone. It was more that I thought that any federal legislation was well outside the realm of what affected me on a day-to-day basis.  Why should a 20-year-old studying neuroscience care about international trade agreements, tax cuts, or telecommunications? (20-20 hindsight moment: clearly I had an ill-informed view of legislative work.)  Maybe that was the case because I wasn’t involved with a specific industry yet, but for anyone who was like me, here’s your wake-up call:  laws matter.

Here’s a scenario.  You’re an equine vet off to perform minor surgery at a nearby farm.  You load up your truck, including an analgesic, and in your rush to get there, are pulled over for going 70 MPH in a 65 MPH zone.  Tough luck!  The officer asks for your license and registration and while talking to you happens to see your butorphanol (a class IV controlled substance) sitting on the passenger seat.

Pop-quiz:  the officer a) would or b) would not be justified in reporting you to the DEA for violating the controlled substances act.

Laws matter, yo.  It’s currently illegal (the answer was “a”) to carry or use controlled substances outside the place of business you registered with the DEA.  Rep. Kurt Schrader (D OR-5) and AVMA just introduced legislation to fix this issue, but it needs veterinarians’ support to pass.  And this is a law that matters to tons of vets—other possible scenarios include trapped wildlife, mobile spay/neuter clinics, or in-home euthanasia or house calls.

I wrote before about establishing a relationship with your Congressional office on a topic you’re an expert on…so why not use this as your springboard?  AVMA has tons of information about it, so read up and reach out!