Mid-Year Summary - August 15, 2012

State Legislative Mid-Year Report
August 15, 2012
American Veterinary Medical Association
Communications Division
State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department
 
State legislatures and regulatory bodies are again busy in 2012. Approximately 27,000 bills have been enacted so far this year, out of the almost 100,000 bills introduced. As usual, many relate to animal health and veterinary medicine. The AVMA has reviewed several thousand bills and regulations introduced in 2012 and has distributed over 1,700 alerts to state veterinary medical associations regarding items especially pertinent to veterinary medicine. 
 
This mid-year report provides both a summary of the various veterinary practice and animal health issues state lawmakers have considered so far in 2012, as well as a more comprehensive review of the bills and regulations tracked by the AVMA. Many entries include topic hyperlinks at the top. We also include court decisions that are particularly relevant to veterinary medicine, as well as highlights of revisions made this year to the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act, which serves as a model for state regulation of the profession. 
 
This summary and report will be updated at the end of the year, and also posted on the AVMA website.
 
Animal cruelty continues to be an area of focus in the states. Dozens of bills were passed or introduced to increase penalties and in some cases make certain acts felonies. States are increasing penalties for animal fighting, as well as outlawing possession of animal-fighting paraphernalia and attendance at animal fights.
 
Virginia reduced the time limit for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect by mandated reporters, including veterinarians and animal control officers, from 72 hours to 24 hours.
 
Also of particular note is the growing number of states that have introduced bills to create animal abuser registries. Two New York counties have approved such registries, and so far this year, 16 states are trying to follow their lead by considering bills to create statewide animal-abuser registries containing the names of individuals who have been convicted of abusing animals.
 
While California’s law outlawing foie gras took effect on July 1, 2012, restaurants and chefs are reportedly finding loopholes to try to continue serving the delicacy. Hawaii and New York are considering legislation to prohibit the selling of foie gras.
 
Several states considered bills relating to animal identification and the use of microchips in companion animals. Illinois adopted a law requiring that dogs and cats be scanned for the presence of a microchip if they are apprehended and impounded, as well as examined for other acceptable methods of identification. Several states are considering legislation to require pet sellers or kennels to microchip dogs in their possession. 
 
Animal welfare is another area of intense activity in state capitals. Bills have been introduced to strengthen animal hoarding laws, prohibit animals from being left alone in cars, require a minimum standard of care in shelters, as well as bills relating to the treatment of circus animals. Several states also introduced bills that would prohibit certain elective procedures, including tail docking, declawing, and surgical debarking.
 
Several new laws relate to the animal welfare of livestock animals.  Most notably, Iowa and Utah adopted bills that prohibit a person from obtaining employment at an agricultural facility under false pretenses in order to record images or commit any other act not authorized by the owner of the agricultural facility. Missouri took a different approach to the issue of unauthorized videotaping by requiring employees who videotape suspected animal abuse to provide the unedited recording to law enforcement within 24 hours.
 
Rhode Island legislators authorized the creation of a livestock standards board to make recommendations relating to the health and welfare of livestock species. This action follows the lead of Ohio and several other states in the past two years. .
 
Rhode Island also adopted a bill prohibiting the docking and altering of tails of bovines with limited exceptions. Ohio enacted legislation that makes it legal to cut or amputate the tail of a horse when necessary because of accident, malformation, disease, or as a proactive measure to prevent injury.  The legislation requires the procedure to be performed by a licensed veterinarian.
 
A new Rhode Island law makes it illegal to tether or confine a sow or calf in a manner that prevents the animal from turning around freely, lying down, standing up, or fully extending its limbs.  
 
New laws and regulations in Oregon and Washington establish standards for egg-laying hens in commercial operations, even as Congress is considering federal legislation that would preempt state laws regulating this area.
 
Ten states introduced laws that would restrict tethering of companion animals. Rhode Island adopted a law that provides penalties for confining or tethering a dog for more than a set number of hours, or failing to provide adequate food, water and veterinary care to a dog.
 
Georgia became the 17th state to require the use of a bittering agent in antifreeze, while eight other states introduced similar legislation in 2012. 
 
Several states adopted or considered bills relating to the treatment of dangerous dogs. The various bills modify penalties for owning dangerous dogs, change procedures by which dangerous dogs must be registered, and address liability concerning injuries sustained from dog bites and attacks. 
 
States and local municipalities continue to grapple with breed-specific legislation that targets a particular species of dog, usually pit bulls. Ohio passed legislation that removed pit bulls from its definition of dangerous dogs. This ends Ohio’s status as the only state to include pit bulls in the statutory definition of vicious dogs. Under the revised law, the classifications of dangerous and vicious dogs are based on the actions of the dog rather than the breed. Florida legislators have been asked to eliminate the exemption that allows Miami-Dade County to be exempt from the statewide prohibition of breed-specific ordinances. In Maryland, legislation has been proposed to overturn the effect of an appeals court decision that held that an owner of a pit bull or a pit bull mix involved in an attack is strictly liable for the damages caused by the dog.
 
Regulatory boards in Louisiana, New Mexico and Oregon adopted credentialing standards for euthanasia technicians.
 
Even after the closure of the last three horse processing plants in the U.S. in 2007, the question of how to deal with unwanted horses continues to draw interest. West Virginia adopted a law regulating equine rescue facilities. Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, and South Dakota introduced bills that would support reinstatement of the horse processing industry, while several other states introduced bills to ban horse slaughter for human consumption. Meanwhile, at least two companies are interested in getting USDA approval for opening such plants and are awaiting guidance from the federal agency on how to proceed with applications.  
 
Tennessee adopted a bill that provides that noneconomic damages are not permitted for any claim arising out of harm or loss of property, except as authorized by statute. Courts in North Carolina and New Jersey ruled against expanding emotion-based damages in pet litigation, while an appeals court in Texas accepted the award of sentimental damages in such cases. The Texas Supreme Court has been asked to review the opinion as contrary to established precedent in the state.
 
Nebraska became the second state to enact legislation prohibiting local governments from defining legal status of animals in a way not consistent with personal property. On the other hand, Rhode Island law now authorizes a state agency to designate an animal advocate in animal cruelty cases in which custody or well-being of an animal is at issue. Maryland legislation was considered that would change variations of the term “own” to variations of the term “guardian” in specified provisions of the law relating to dogs, but this legislation was defeated.
 
States continue to introduce bills that would provide for pet protection orders in domestic violence cases. This year, California and New Jersey have adopted these types of bills while six other states consider similar bills.
 
Commercial pet breeding and retail operations continue to be hot topics of regulation. In 2012, several states adopted laws that in some way regulate these breeders and retailers. California and Louisiana made it illegal to sell a live animal on specified public places such as streets, parking lots, or sidewalks.
 
Maryland, Massachusetts, and Minnesota introduced bills that would allow for the creation of pet trusts under their state laws, while a new Georgia law gives a person appointed to enforce a trust created for the care of an animal the rights of a beneficiary.
 
Pharmacy laws have also been popular this year. Several states introduced bills that would allow for the electronic transmittal of prescriptions. Most notably, however, are the number of states creating or modifying prescription monitoring programs for controlled substances. Georgia, Idaho and Kentucky adopted measures that exclude veterinarians from this type of program. Washington legislation adopted a parallel program for veterinary reporting that removes the requirement of electronic reporting and lessens the reporting frequency for veterinarians. However, New Hampshire created a new program to share information regarding the prescribing of certain controlled substances, which includes veterinarians.
 
New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and West Virginia considered bills that would prohibit or limit the use of antimicrobials in livestock. None of these bills have been adopted.
 
California adopted a bill that exempts dogs from the rabies vaccination requirement if a dog’s life is endangered due to disease or other considerations, as determined by a licensed veterinarian on an annual basis. Delaware now requires that a veterinarian include in a rabies vaccination certificate for a dog or cat the manufacturer’s specifications of the duration of immunity of the rabies vaccination used.
 
Scope of practice and unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine continue to attract the attention of decision-makers around the country. Several state regulatory boards issued rules clarifying the scope of chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists and lay equine dental providers to work on animals in collaboration with veterinarians. Louisiana adopted regulations to provide for alternative therapy and collaborative treatment on animals by a qualified layperson.
 
A new Oklahoma law allows the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners to certify an individual as a “non-veterinary reproductive services technician.” Nebraska enacted legislation to allow non-veterinarians to perform bovine transplantation of embryos, including recovering, freezing and transfers, if they hold a doctorate degree in animal science and carry professional liability insurance.
 
Mississippi regulations provide that the diagnosing of pregnancy in cattle and other livestock clearly constitutes the practice of veterinary medicine and, thus, may only be performed by a licensed veterinarian.
 
A California bill that would have removed certain cosmetic dental procedures from the definition of veterinary medicine by allowing pet groomers to use non-motorized instruments was defeated.
 
Several states are finding money in their budgets to fund their loan repayment programs for veterinarians. In addition, Georgia established a new program that will allow students who are state residents of Georgia to apply for a loan repayment program if they agree to work as large animal veterinarians in the state for a given period of time after graduation. New Jersey also provided continued funding for its tuition assistance program for veterinary graduates who come back to practice in the state.
 
In the veterinary practice area, Alaska legislation proposing to allow out-of-state veterinarians to practice free-of-charge in rural areas of Alaska was defeated. The bill was part of an effort to expand the availability of veterinary care to rural residents. Alaska did adopt regulations to allow a veterinary technician to provide care to an animal under “remote direction” in communities that do not have an established veterinary practice.
 
Hawaii established a veterinary license renewal requirement of 20 hours of continuing education to be completed by June 30, 2016, and every licensing biennium thereafter, leaving Michigan as the only state without a continuing education requirement for veterinarians. The New York Department of Education regulations implemented a new law for continuing education for veterinarians and veterinary technicians, while the agency is still finalizing the process for out-of-state providers. In addition, Alaska and Pennsylvania amended reporting requirements for continuing education.
 
The AVMA finalized revisions to its Model Veterinary Practice Act, outlined in the accompanying report.
 
Finally, in response to the situation at the end of last year that occurred in Ohio where dozens of animals were released from a wild animal refuge with tragic results, several states introduced and adopted bills that restrict and in some cases ban the ownership of wild or dangerous animals.  Ohio was one of the states to adopt such regulations, along with Connecticut and Nebraska. West Virginia legislators approved a similar bill, which was ultimately vetoed by the governor.
 
The following is a comprehensive review of the bills and regulations tracked by the AVMA so far this session. We have included both adopted measures, those that were signed into law or received final regulatory approval, as well as some of the most significant bills and regulatory proposals that were introduced but have not yet been adopted into law. For a more detailed analysis on any of these topics, please contact the AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department.
 
 
MId-Year Summary August 15, 2012