State Legislative Update
Prepared by Department of State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs
AVMA Communications Division
March 10, 2014
It seems as if the New Year just began, but in fact nearly a quarter of state legislatures adjourned for the year or are nearing scheduled adjournment. As these legislatures wrap up their sessions, several noteworthy bills have been signed into law, with this number expected to grow quickly.
Among the new passed laws, Virginia HB 1035 allows a veterinarian to dispense a compounded drug distributed from a pharmacy, when (i) the animal is his/her own patient, (ii) the animal is a companion animal, (iii) the quantity dispensed is no more than a 72-hour supply, (iv) the compounded drug is for the treatment of an emergency condition, and (v) timely access to a compounding pharmacy is not available, as determined by the prescribing veterinarian.
Idaho S 1337 creates the crime of interference with agriculture production, which includes obtaining employment with such facility by misrepresentation with intent to cause economic or other injury to its operations, livestock, crops, owners, personnel, equipment, buildings, premises, business interests or customers.
Oregon SB 1584 was also signed, allowing the state’s Department of Agriculture to issue permits for keeping of exotic animals, under limited conditions, for animals owned prior to January 1, 2010.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals made changes to its licensure requirements for veterinarians, registered veterinary technicians and certified animal euthanasia technicians, while clarifying the scope of each as to pre-euthanasia chemical restraint and chemical euthanasia.
The Oregon Veterinary Medical Examining Board made several changes to its rules, including a definition of indirect supervision to allow certified veterinary technicians to perform duties outside of veterinary facilities and updates of the license application process, qualifications and continuing education requirements. A significant new provision states that if requested, a prescription must be provided to a client for medications prescribed by the veterinarian under a valid veterinarian-client-patient-relationship. This policy is modeled after a similar provision in the AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics.
The Washington Department of Health revised its rules governing providers of veterinary continuing education and now lists several organizations and individuals as approved without the need to apply, including a veterinarian who is certified by a veterinary specialty board recognized by AVMA, when teaching a course within his or her area of certification.
Local government watch
The Chicago City Council approved by a vote of 49-1 an ordinance restricting pet stores from selling dogs, cats or rabbits obtained from large-scale breeding operations. Effective March 15, 2015, all such animals sold in the city will have to come from government pounds, rescue operations or humane societies. The ordinance does not apply to online sales or purchases from small-scale breeders who do not sell puppies in stores. An exemption will allow veterinarians to place animals from their clinics. An estimated 16 Chicago pet stores will be impacted. Cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix have passed similar ordinances.
On February 11, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas denied the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners’ motion, in Hines v. Alldredge, to dismiss veterinarian Ron Hines’ challenge to a Texas law banning online veterinary advice. The board had suspended Dr. Hines’ license for providing veterinary medical advice over the phone and Internet for a fee without having a valid veterinarian-client-patient-relationship (VCPR). Dr. Hines had claimed that he did not attempt to serve as a primary veterinary care provider, did not prescribe medications and did not perform any procedures. He argues that he only provided advice to pet owners who lacked access to conventional veterinary care, due to geography or inability to pay and to owners who received conflicting diagnoses.
Judge Hilda Tagle’s decision dismissed Dr. Hines’ due process and equal protection claims, but allowed his First Amendment claim to proceed in the lawsuit, finding that “the First Amendment applies to the professional regulations at issue in this case, and that the regulations, as applied to Hines’s professional speech, are subject to heightened scrutiny and must be shown to be “reasonable” (as opposed to merely “rational”). Therefore, the Texas licensing board apparently will need to prove to the court that the VCPR regulations are “reasonable” under First Amendment analysis. Dr. Hines argues that veterinary advice is protected speech, not professional conduct subject to state regulation, and that veterinarians are capable of exercising professional judgment without examining an animal.
If the court ultimately finds that the regulations violate Dr. Hines’ First Amendment rights, the Texas licensing board may be required to substantially revise the definition of a VCPR to allow for veterinary advice provided by electronic means, although the court may ultimately uphold the regulation after reviewing the evidence.
A federal appeals court upheld Ohio’s legislation regulating exotic animals, rejecting a challenge by owners who claimed that the law violates their free speech and free association rights. The law was passed after a high-profile incident in 2011 when authorities had to kill several animals released by a suicidal owner, including black bears, Bengal tigers and African lions. The three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the owners’ unwillingness to meet permit requirements or seek exemptions under the law does not mean that the measure compels them to join certain groups. The court also upheld a state requirement that animals be implanted with a microchip, writing that “there is little difference between a law requiring a microchip in an animal and a law requiring handrails in apartment buildings.” The owners were appealing a 2012 decision by a lower court.
The link at the top or bottom of this page will take you to the latest chart of significant pending bills and regulations from around the country.