Prepared by AVMA State Relations
State Legislative Update: October/November 2015
California governor takes action on bills
One of the most significant pieces of legislation signed in the past couple of months is California’s controversial SB 27, which puts new limits on the use of antibiotics in livestock.
Beginning January 1, 2018, the administration of “medically important” antimicrobial drugs to livestock can be conducted only when ordered by a licensed veterinarian, through a prescription or veterinary feed directive, and pursuant to a veterinarian-client-patient relationship. The new law also will prohibit the administration of a medically important antimicrobial drug to livestock solely for purposes of promoting weight gain or improving feed efficiency. The state Department of Food and Agriculture is directed to gather information on medically important antimicrobial drug sales and usage, drug-resistant bacteria and livestock management practice data. Under the bill, the department is authorized to request and receive copies of veterinary feed directives from certain people in order to implement the law.
A related bill, SB 361, will require a veterinarian who renews his or her license on or after January 1, 2018, to complete a minimum of one credit hour of continuing education on the judicious use of medically important antimicrobial drugs, as defined, every four years, as part of the continuing education requirement. (For more information on the judicious use of antibiotics, visit avma.org/antibioticuse.)
California AB 494 authorizes a court, when issuing a restraining order or protective order, to direct a person to stay away from an animal or forbid a person from threatening or harming an animal. The legislation also authorizes a court to grant a petitioner's request for the exclusive care, possession or control of an animal.
California AB 147 requires institutions of higher education that confine dogs or cats for science or research purposes to offer the animal to an adoption or rescue organization under certain circumstances.
Another bill recently approved by Gov. Jerry Brown, AB 316, clarifies that licensed veterinarians from other states, under certain circumstances, are exempt from California’s licensure requirements when they are called by a law enforcement agency to help investigate an alleged violation of animal cruelty or animal fighting laws, or to temporarily care for the animals affected by the investigation. State law already allows for veterinarians in good standing in other states to “attend cases” in California if they do not open an office. This bill clarifies the provision’s application to criminal investigations when the state veterinary medical board is informed of the investigation. (A similar bill was signed in New York.)
Brown also vetoed a few bills related to animal welfare and veterinary practice. SB 716 would have made it illegal for any owner or manager of an elephant to use a bullhook, ankus, guide or pitchfork in the discipline, management or training of the elephant. The bill was among nine vetoed by Brown; his veto message is available here. AB 317 would have exempted temporary shelters established to care for animals displaced by a state of emergency from the existing requirement to register a veterinary premises. Brown vetoed the legislation on the grounds that it could lead to confusion during a disaster.
Elsewhere around the country
New Jersey Gov. Chis Christie signed A 1186 into law, which puts in place new requirements to be met by for-profit veterinary facilities treating companion animals that do not provide supervision after normal business hours by a person physically on the premises. They must provide written notification to each client that the boarded animals are not subject to 24-hour supervision; this may be done though a posted sign. Every for-profit veterinary facility where domestic companion animals are treated also must post its normal business hours in a conspicuous location easily visible to the public.
Under New York AB 6990, veterinarians in good standing in other states are exempt from licensure requirements when practicing either during a declared emergency/natural disaster or when invited by law enforcement to help investigate animal cruelty cases. The legislation also provides the same exemptions for veterinary technicians, under the same limited circumstances.
Wisconsin SB 286 provides that a dog owner is liable for double damages in certain instances in which the dog bites a person and causes permanent physical damage, and the owner knew that the dog had previously launched such an attack without provocation. The new law also specifies that, in addition to the state or a municipality, an action to obtain an order to kill a dog may be commenced by a person who is injured by a dog, whose minor child was injured by a dog or whose domestic animal is injured by a dog.
Florida SB 680 would authorize the awarding of damages to an owner for loss of companionship in an action against a veterinarian for the death of his or her companion animal that resulted from the veterinarian's negligence or recklessness.
A second bill introduced (SB 852) would allow the University of Florida, in consultation with a veterinary research organization, to conduct research to determine the benefits and contraindications of the use of low-THC cannabis and low-THC cannabis products for treatment of animals with seizure disorders or other life-limiting illnesses. State funds may not be used for such research.
A rule proposed by the Kentucky Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners would change requirements for veterinarians’ continuing education by removing the four-hour limit on content completed by audio, video, electronic, computer or interactive materials. A veterinarian would be able to complete the required 30 hours of continuing education required for renewal by the completion of audio or video recordings, electronic, computer or interactive material prepared or offered by approved organizations. (A similar provision would be clarified for veterinary technicians.) The proposed rules also would put in place reduced continuing education requirements for certain veterinarians who graduated from veterinary school during their initial licensure period.
The North Dakota Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners’ proposed rules would require a veterinarian to make available, upon request and at a reasonable cost, a prescription for a patient with whom there is a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
The U.S. Supreme Court ended a long legal battle between a Texas veterinarian providing veterinary advice over the Internet and his state veterinary medical board. At the center of the case, Hines v. Alldredge, is the state’s requirement to have a veterinary-client-patient-relationship, which cannot be established by telephonic or electronic means. Dr. Ronald Hines challenged the law, saying it infringed on his free speech, but a U.S. appeals court ruled that his constitutional rights were not violated when the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners suspended his license and forced him to shut down his online activities in 2012. The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear Hines’ case is unlikely to end the ongoing debate about the potential role for telemedicine in veterinary care. (A similar challenge has been brought to the federal court system by a Texas firm offering medical advice to humans.)
State Legislative Update: October/November 2015