The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) today honored Valerie Fenstermaker, former executive director of the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), as the winner of the 2021 AVMA Humane Award.
The AVMA Humane Award is given annually during National Pet Week to a non-veterinarian to recognize achievement in advancing the welfare of animals through leadership, public service, education, research and product development, or advocacy. The recipient is selected by the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee. It is one of three AVMA Animal Welfare and Human Animal Bond Excellence Awards presented annually during National Pet Week, supported through educational funding from Merck Animal Health.
Fenstermaker served more than 30 years with the CVMA—the last 16 of those years as executive director, until her retirement last year—working on more than a thousand bills affecting the veterinary profession and the wellbeing of animals in California. Through her work on legislative issues relating to animal welfare and the veterinary profession—including scope of practice, judicious use of antibiotics, cannabis, veterinary compounding, spay/neuter and many other animal welfare subjects—the CVMA has come to be recognized as a trusted source of balanced and reliable information for legislators and state agencies.
Fenstermaker helped establish the CVMA’s Eight Principles of Animal Care, Use and Welfare, which guide all CVMA actions and decisions and are included in every agenda put forth for the association’s house of delegates and board of governors. In addition, she has been at the forefront in promoting the development of a statewide Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps, managing a multimillion dollar spay-and-neuter program for feral cats, working with the California Veterinary Medical Board to establish legislation prohibiting unlicensed veterinary practice in the state, and working with statewide animal welfare coalitions, humane societies and shelters to develop standards of care that protect the health and welfare of all animals.
Under Fenstermaker’s guidance, and working with legislators and the governor’s office, the CVMA has been the watchdog for bills that would negatively impact animals. This included the CVMA’s work to assure continued access to veterinary care by defeating a proposed sales tax on veterinary services and continuing advocacy to guarantee that physical rehabilitation procedures are performed under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. The CVMA also supported legislation to strengthen animal welfare laws such as increased fines for animal abuse.
Most recently, Fenstermaker helped lead the CVMA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, acting to ensure that veterinarians were deemed essential service providers in California, thus permitting veterinary practices to remain open so that the state’s animals could continue to receive needed medical care.
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