Washington — Having newly elected U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., in Congress means veterinarians have a representative in government who understands issues specific to the veterinary community.
Schrader's landslide win over Republican Mike Erickson in November for the seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley will be a boon to his constituents and the profession, says Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Government Relations Division.
"Until the end of this year, we had two veterinarians in the Senate. They were very helpful in helping us get our agendas passed," Lutschaunig says. "When you have someone working as part of the profession, they understand the challenges the profession faces; hence they are willing to work with us. I anticipate Dr. Schrader will be the same way."
Once he takes office, Schrader says he wants to work on livestock identification, curbing animal abuse and bolstering the number of veterinarians in rural areas through scholarships or loan repayment/forgiveness programs, as well as non-animal issues important to Oregon, such as the timber industry.
The AVMA and Oregon Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) member owns two clinics, both named Clackamas County Veterinary, catering to horses and companion animals and a small family farm.
He has served in Oregon's Legislature since 1997, first in the House of Representatives and then, beginning in 2003, in the state Senate.
Lutschaunig hopes Schrader wins a seat on the agriculture committee.
"A lot of animal-welfare issues come up through that committee," Lutschaunig says.
Schrader wants to be a voice for the veterinary community and animal welfare legislation.
"I feel it is extremely important for our country to have the expertise of a veterinarian in Congress on such issues as animal rights, food safety and lots of other animal issues," he says
While Schrader will be spending a lot of his time in Washington, he will keep his practice open and come home to work on an occasional Saturday.
"I'm an energetic fella," Schrader says. "I like multi-tasking. I've spent most of my adult life as a vet, a farmer and a state representative."
Once you're a veterinarian, you can never give it up, he says.