VFBF News Lead: Animal control officers get training on ag animal care

*News Leads are the weekly top agriculture stories written by Farm Bureau’s Communications Department and sent to local newspapers and TV stations around the state as a news release. This story was released on Oct. 20.

Photo by USDA

RICHMOND—Virginia animal control officers are receiving training on agriculture animal care standards that were approved by the 2011 General Assembly.

“We want them to know how to enforce the new animal care standards law,” said Dr. Daniel Kovich, program manager for the Office of Animal Care and Health Policy within the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Since the legislation passed in April, Kovich has been meeting with animal control officers so they are aware of the new law, know how to apply it, and understand how to educate the public about animal welfare.

 “The average person gets conflicting messages about animal welfare,” Kovich said. “How do animal control officers manage this public confusion? These people expect the animal control officers to share their viewpoint and do something about it [alleged animal abuse].”
 The new legislation sets a reasonable standard for agricultural animal care based on accepted animal husbandry practices.

“Our farmers take care of their animals and use management practices that are appropriate for each animal,” said Lindsay Reames, assistant director of governmental relations for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “They know what needs to be done to take care of their farm animals and this law codifies basic care standards.”

The law mandates that farmers give their animals proper feed, water and veterinary care. It is intended to catch bad actors who fail to provide for the basic needs of their livestock.

Prior to the new legislation, only companion animal care standards existed. “This is a tool for earlier intervention in cases of animal neglect so it doesn’t get to the point of animal cruelty,” Kovich said.

Animal care is a topic that was identified recently by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance as one that consumers want more information about. The USFRA was formed by a wide range of farmer-led organizations and agricultural partners to lead a dialogue in answering Americans’ questions about how farmers raise their food.

Farmers believe they take good care of their animals but some consumers question those practices.

“Farmers use accepted, science-based care for their animals to keep them safe, healthy and productive,” Reames said. “It’s hard for the average person who’s never been on a farm to understand how farmers care for their animals. But their practices are for the good of the animal.”

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