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Crucial time for animals in Alabama. Don’t go back; move forward.

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporters

Today I’m writing about dogs. And cats. And the need for most of us to make sure our pets are spayed or neutered. Even rabbits. Even gerbils.

All of ours are fixed. Unless you’re a reputable breeder, yours should be, too.

But how is this politics? It’s politics because the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners has a horrible history of discouraging spay/neuter.

That is demonstrated no better when the board went after the wonderful Dr. William Weber of Eastwood Animal Clinic and Dr. Margaret Ferrell of the Alabama/Spay Neuter Clinic in Irondale a few years ago.

The ASBVME embarrassed veterinarians statewide with their crusade against Weber and Ferrell and nonprofit spay/neuter clinics. So much so, that Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Ferrell to replace one of the ringleaders on the board, Robert Pitman of Athens. Pitman and Ronnie Welch led the persecution of Weber and Ferrell. Why? Because they look at the state’s nonprofit spay/neuter clinics as competition.

It’s always about money, right? For some people.

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These nonprofit spay/neuter clinics have lowered the pet population in Alabama. They do it at a reasonable cost. Most pet owners using Alabama Spay/Neuter Clinic, the North Alabama Spay/Neuter Clinic and the few others in the state serve poor clients who wouldn’t take their animals to a private veterinarian. Their animals go unfixed, and produce litter after litter. The spay/neuter clinics are cutting the pet population numbers. There’s still a ton of work to do, but they’re doing the work. Not Pitman or Welch.

And really, a spay or neuter is a one-time surgery. Vaccinations and other care provided by private veterinarians are their bread and BMWs.

Since Ferrell and some other new members of the ASBVME were appointed, replacing Pitman, Welch and others, the board has become more reasonable. But it looks like the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association wants to turn the momentum around. ALVMA has nominated a mostly terrible slate of candidates to replace Drs. Sam Eidt and Patrick Trotter on the ASBVME.

This is so Alabama. That attitude: “We’ve always done it this way, so why change.” Well, the veterinary profession should change as medicine changes. Pitman and Welch have always done it their way, and by God, why learn how to do it better? (Pitman’s a cow-killer, by the way, and had to pay for shooting his neighbor’s cow. Seriously. That’s what vets do, right? Of course not. Except this one.)

Drs. Weber and Ferrell have done more for animals in this state than Welch weighs, and that says quite a bit.

Welch, by the way, is nominated for a new term on the ASBVME, despite a disastrous four-year term already served.

Of the six veterinarians nominated by the ALVMA, four have close associations with the dreaded Alabama Veterinary Practice Owners Association, an organization created mainly to oppose nonprofit spay/neuter clinics. According to our sources, these four nominees are involved with ALVPOA: Dr. Thomas Fell, Dr. William Ronald Welch (yes, him!), Dr. Homer Bruce, and Dr. Phillip Smith. I can’t go to the ALVPOA website to check because the links are dead. Maybe they were spending so much of their resources on stopping low-cost, nonprofit spay/neuter clinics that they forgot to pay their website fees. And their Facebook page, with all of 27 likes, was last updated in 2013. That’s a real active group there, folks.

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Dr. Homer Bruce, aka, Buddy Bruce, has served as head boss of the ALVPOA. We know all about Welch, already. Phillip Smith practices in Tuscaloosa, and Thomas Fell practices in Mobile. I can’t find much about them and their association with ALVPOA because I can’t find ALVPOA’s website. But my sources say both are members and/or directors of the rogue organization.

Gov. Bentley should not nominate any one of these four guys. Bentley should appoint Dr. Willam G. Bledsoe for Eidt’s position. He should nominate Dr. William Berry for Trotter’s. They have no overt association with the ALVPOA, which was, in fact, created to oppose the low-cost, nonprofit spay/neuter clinics.

And that aside, where are the women? Women are now dominating the veterinary profession, yet in six nominations, the state Veterinary Medical Association couldn’t find a few women to nominate? Or is it that they’re more likely to be sympathetic to spay/neuter issues, and more up-to-date in their practices? It’s just a question, but it’s unbelievable that in this day and age, the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association couldn’t find at least three women to nominate to the ASBVME.

Or six.

Let’s hope Gov. Bentley does the right thing. He did when he put Ferrell on the ASBVME. If you want to have a say in these to upcoming appointments, email Bentley’s appointments point-man, Will Edwards, at [email protected].

We’ve come too far (not far enough, by far) to go back. But if the Alabama Veterinary Practice Owners Association takes over the ASBVME, it’ll turn back lots of progress.

We’re not good to animals in Alabama. We have good abuse laws, but they’re rarely enforced. We don’t regulate puppy mills. We don’t have pet licensing. We allow chaining and tethering. And now, the ALVPOA wants to make the state Veterinary Medical Examiners Board its tool for its own evil intentions.

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Don’t let it happen. For the most part, Alabama veterinarians deeply care about animals and doing their job responsibly. But if the ALVPOA takeover attempt of the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners succeeds, good Alabama vets will be embarrassed yet again. And shamed.

Be heard!

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter. Email him at [email protected].

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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