State Legislative Analysis

 State Legislative End of Year Report December 12, 2012

American Veterinary Medical Association
Communications Division
State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department

December 12, 2012


View Year-End Summary (PDF)

State legislatures and regulatory bodies were again busy in 2012. Approximately 40,000 bills are projected to be enacted into law this year, out of 150,000 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 distributed more than 2,400 alerts to state veterinary medical associations regarding items especially pertinent to the profession. 

Most state legislatures have long adjourned for the year, but all are scheduled to be in session in 2013. Bills will carry over from to 2012 to next year only in New Jersey and Virginia. In other states, bills will have to be reintroduced in the new session to be considered.

January promises to kick off an even busier year for lawmakers, with few elections on the schedule. In several capitals, bills will be introduced soon, if they’re not already prefiled. Of course, regulatory agencies propose and issue regulations throughout the year. We expect that legislators and regulators will be tackling many of the same veterinary and animal health issues next year, especially in the areas of animal welfare, pharmacy and unauthorized practice. 

2012 was, of course, an election year. Not only did Americans cast ballots for president and congressional candidates on Nov. 6, but they also elected more than 6,000 state lawmakers. The results don’t show any large partisan shifts, only a slight increase in Democrat-controlled legislatures. Twelve state chambers switched party control. Democrats increased their majorities from 15 to 19 legislatures, Republicans still control both chambers in 26 states, and control in three states is split between the parties.

The AVMA is pleased to report that 15 veterinarians were re-elected to their state legislatures in 2012. We congratulate the newest veterinarian-state legislator, Dr. Trudy Wade (R-N.C., Senate Dist. 27), who will represent a district in the Greensboro area. In Iowa, veterinarian Dr. James Kenyon lost to incumbent Bob Kressing in House District 59. Also, since 2010, three veterinarians retired from state legislatures or left office: Dr. Eugene Maddox (Georgia), Dr. Phil Richardson (Oklahoma) and Dr. Jim Shuler (Virginia).

The current count of veterinarians holding office in state legislatures is 19.

Incidentally, two veterinarians will serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Dr. Kurt Schrader (D), a former state representative and senator, won re-election in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District by a margin of 54%-43%. Dr. Ted Yoho (R) is a freshman, elected in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District by a margin of 65%-32%. Dr. Yoho narrowly defeated 12-term Rep. Cliff Stearns in an August primary. Dr. Yoho earned his DVM degree from the University of Florida and worked as a large-animal veterinarian in Gainesville, Fla.

This year-end report provides both a topical introductory summary of the various veterinary practice and animal health issues state lawmakers considered 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 several 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. 

Here are some of the highlights of 2012:

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, to 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. California also made changes to its child-abuse reporting law, which includes veterinarians as mandated reporters.

Also of particular note is the growing number of states that are considering establishing animal-abuser registries containing the names of individuals who have been convicted of abusing animals. Two New York counties have approved such registries, while 16 states considered but did not pass measures to create statewide animal-abuser registries.

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 considered legislation in 2012 to prohibit the selling of foie gras.

To protect against animal disease, Rhode Island issued regulations for entities that import into the state dogs or cats for sale, rescue or adoption, including requirements for registration, a valid health certificate and a veterinary examination.

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 considered legislation to require pet sellers or kennels to microchip dogs in their possession. 

Animal welfare is another area of activity in state capitals. Bills were introduced relating to the treatment of circus animals, strengthening animal hoarding laws, prohibiting animals from being left alone in cars and requiring a minimum standard of care in shelters. Several states also considered legislation that would prohibit certain elective procedures, including tail docking, declawing and surgical debarking. California passed a law prohibiting a landlord from adopting rental policies that require a tenant to have an animal declawed or devocalized as a condition of occupancy.

Several new laws relate to the surveillance of animal welfare of livestock animals. 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 somewhat different approach 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 about 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 pre-empt state laws regulating this area.

Michigan adopted minimum standards for the housing of livestock at auctions and prohibited the sale of nonambulatory livestock.

Voters in North Dakota approved a unique provision in their state constitution that guarantees the right of farmers to engage in “modern” agriculture and prohibits any law limiting their right “to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices.” It’s not clear what this new right will really mean, how it will be interpreted or whether it will survive a likely court challenge.

Legislators in 10 states introduced bills that would restrict tethering of companion animals. Delaware and Rhode Island adopted laws that provide penalties for confining or tethering a dog for more than a set number of hours. 

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 state 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. Massachusetts also enacted legislation stating that no dog can be deemed dangerous based solely on breed.

In Aug. 2012, residents of Miami-Dade County in Florida approved retaining the existing ban on American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and high-content mixes of both by a vote of 63 - 37 percent. The ordinance was adopted in 1989 after a dog thought to be a pit bull severely injured an 8-year-old child.

In Maryland, legislation was 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. The Maryland legislature likely will take up this issue again in 2013.

In 2012, the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates approved a resolution that urges local governments to focus on the behavior of dogs, not breed, when considering dangerous dog laws. The new policy is consistent with the view of many professional and animal welfare organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Humane Association and American Kennel Club. 

Regulatory boards in Louisiana, New Mexico and Oregon adopted credentialing standards for euthanasia technicians. Pennsylvania passed a law detailing acceptable methods of euthanasia and providing for euthanasia technician certification. Georgia regulations also addressed acceptable methods for euthanasia.

In the area of food safety, California voters rejected a proposal requiring foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such on packaging or supermarket shelves. However, labeling proponents reportedly are preparing similar measures in Connecticut, Vermont, Oregon and Washington next year, claiming favorable public opinion.

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. New Jersey enacted a new law prohibiting the in-state slaughter of horses, transportation of horses to slaughter and the sale of horse meat 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.  

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 and has scheduled oral argument for early next year.

Nebraska became the second state to enact legislation prohibiting local governments from defining legal status of animals in a way that is 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 measure was defeated.

States continue to consider bills that would provide for pet protection orders in domestic violence cases. This year, California, Massachusetts and New Jersey adopted these types of bills, while five other states considered but did not pass such measures.

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. Ohio enacted legislation detailing various licensing requirements and standards of care for dog breeding kennels, high volume breeders, dog retailers, and animal rescues. The new law also establishes a seven member commercial dog breeding advisory board to include the state veterinarian in the department of agriculture and an additional veterinarian.

California and Louisiana made it illegal to sell a live animal on specified public places such as streets, parking lots or sidewalks. Los Angeles became the largest city in the U.S. to adopt a ban on selling commercially bred animals in pet stores.

Massachusetts adopted legislation making it the 45th state to specifically allow for the creation of pet trusts for the care of animals, 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 issues have grown in significance and attention this year. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosted on Oct. 2, 2012, a workshop in Washington, D.C., examining both competition and consumer protection issues in the pet medication industry. The AVMA and others spoke out against a proposed federal mandate on prescription writing. State laws requiring veterinarians to honor a client’s request for a prescription were referenced, as was the AVMA Principle of Veterinary Medical Ethics provision that served as a model for these state laws.

A bill was introduced in New Jersey in 2012 to require a veterinarian to furnish a written prescription, regardless of whether or not it was requested by the owner. A similar bill failed in Maine in 2011. The publicity arising from the FTC workshop may lead to similar bills introduced next year.

Several states adopted bills that facilitate the electronic transmittal of prescriptions. Other interesting measures passed this year include Florida pharmacy standards for large-animal veterinary practices, Maine allowing a veterinarian to sell and dispense the written prescription of another veterinarian, and a Missouri rule allowing a client to authorize delivery to a residence, business or clinic of legally filled veterinary prescriptions.

Colorado, Mississippi and Texas clarified rules covering in-office use of compounded drugs. In the aftermath of a highly publicized meningitis outbreak in 2012, we are seeing more interest in stricter regulation of compounding, both at the state and federal level, and we expect further regulatory activity in 2013. 

States continue to adopt, refine and implement prescription monitoring programs for controlled substances. Georgia, Idaho and Kentucky adopted measures that exclude veterinarians from this type of program. Washington, New Mexico and Wisconsin reduced the burden on veterinarians who participate in their prescription monitoring programs. However, New Hampshire, Tennessee and West Virginia created or revised programs that still expect veterinarians to report as any other prescribers.

AVMA is engaged in an effort to address and clarify the legality of mobile veterinary practitioners’ ability to carry controlled substances outside of the principal place of business. While this is primarily a federal issue, some state VMAs are in contact with DEA offices in their states that may have a restrictive or unpractical interpretation of applicable federal law. We are hopeful that this issue will be resolved uniformly in 2013.

New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and West Virginia considered bills that would prohibit or limit the use of antimicrobials in livestock. None of these bills was 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 nonveterinarians 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 nonmotorized instruments was defeated.

Several states passed legislation creating spay/neuter funds for animals that are homeless or owned by low-income residents.

New Colorado legislation provides that veterinarians will not have to collect sales taxes on vaccines, OTC antibiotics and other nonprescription drugs used to treat livestock. The Rhode Island Division of Taxation clarified that sale and use taxes must be collected for providing pet-care services, including but not limited to boarding, grooming, sitting and training of pets.

A few states are finding money in their budgets to fund loan-repayment programs for veterinarians. Georgia established a new program that will allow in-state residents 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. California enacted a new law authorizing veterinary assistants to administer a controlled substance if specified requirements are satisfied, including completion of a background check.

In Alabama, measures to ban nonveterinarians from employing licensed veterinarians did not pass, although lawmakers are expected to consider in 2013 additional legislation proposing oversight and restrictions on not-for-profit entities delivering veterinary services.

Hawaii established a veterinary license renewal requirement of 20 hours of continuing education every two years, leaving Michigan as the only state without a continuing education requirement for veterinarians. The New York Department of Education implemented a new law for continuing education for veterinarians and veterinary technicians. Several states amended specific requirements for continuing education, while New Jersey adopted a rule allowing veterinarians to obtain up to two continuing education credit hours per licensing period by providing certain veterinary services without charge.

Veterinary boards in Florida and Maryland established and revised standards for various mobile, limited-use and permanent veterinary practices.

The AVMA finalized revisions to its Model Veterinary Practice Act, outlined in the accompanying report.

Florida and Maryland revised recordkeeping requirements for veterinarians, while in Pennsylvania, a veterinarian who keeps a client’s animal while the practice is closed must now inform the owner who will be on the premises with the animal and what level of monitoring will be provided. 

The Vermont Board of Veterinary Medicine changed the definition of veterinarian-client-patient-relationship so when a veterinarian is not available, he or she may arrange for emergency coverage for follow-up evaluation in the event of adverse reactions or failure of the treatment regimen. 

Finally, in response to the situation at the end of last year that occurred in Ohio when dozens of animals were released from a wild animal refuge with tragic results, several states took action to 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.

Below is a link to the comprehensive review of the bills and regulations tracked by the AVMA in 2012. We include 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 not adopted into law. For a more detailed analysis on any of these topics, please contact the AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department.

View Year-End Summary (PDF)