State Legislative Updates - 2007 Year-end Summary

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

December 31, 2007

View year-end summary (PDF)

As the 2007 legislative sessions come to an end, we look back over the various bills and regulations introduced and adopted in the states this year, as well as a few landmark court decisions. It was once again a busy year in the field of veterinary medicine as states tackled items such as animal cruelty, mandatory spay/neuter, horse slaughter, non-economic damages, and loan repayment among many others.

Overall, 167,411 bills were introduced in the 50 states and District of Columbia, with 42,308 adopted. The AVMA electronic tracking system identified over 4,400 bills and regulations of interest to the veterinary profession. We distributed 1,390 legislative and regulatory alerts to state veterinary medical associations in 2007. We responded to 83 requests for legal or legislative research.

In 27 states, bills introduced in 2007 carry over and can be acted on in 2008. On the other hand, legislatures are not scheduled to meet in 2008 in Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, and Texas.

On specific topics, we continue to see states increase penalties for animal cruelty, with 43 states now providing felony penalties. States are also defining new offenses in their statutes, such as removal of an electronic dog collar and interfering with a service animal. Four states passed laws in 2007 enabling family pets to be included in domestic abuse orders of protection, and North Dakota joined the growing list of states allowing pet trusts.

New Mexico and Louisiana were the last states to make cockfighting illegal, while in July, dogfighting received national attention with the federal indictments against football star Michael Vick.

Six more states adopted language restricting dog tethering. We are not aware of any states enacting breed-specific dog legislation in 2007, but several bills pertaining to microchip identification of dangerous dogs were adopted.

Colorado now requires veterinarians to report instances of animal cruelty and animal fighting, while North Carolina and Oregon adopted immunity for reporting animal cruelty.

California experienced an emotional and hard fought battle on the issue of spay/neuter for dogs and cats. A bill calling for mandatory sterilization was shelved, although a narrower version that addresses irresponsible owners may be introduced next year.

Maine will have new voluntary humane handling and slaughter standards for livestock, while Oregon legislatively prohibited extensive confinement of pregnant sows starting in 2012. California is bracing for a ballot initiative in 2008 on confinement of pigs, calves, and hens on farms. Several proposals to ban the use of cages to confine egg-laying chickens were defeated in state legislatures.

The legislative aftermath of Hurricane Katrina continued in 2007 with eight more states adopting legislation enabling the rescue of domestic or service animals during a disaster. Three states passed legislation specifically authorizing veterinarians to provide volunteer services in the event of a declared disaster.

The authority of non-veterinarians to treat animals is still a huge issue for state legislators and regulatory bodies. Massage therapists, physical therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors and equine dental technicians all generated activity related to animal practice. See the section below titled "Scope of Practice/Complementary and Alternative Medicine" for details.

The pet food recall generated interest in the area of non-economic damages, but no legislation was enacted to provide damages in pet litigation beyond the economic value of a pet. New Jersey, however, is considering a bill that would significantly enhance damages in cases related to pet food.

North Dakota established a large animal loan repayment program for veterinarians to address workforce shortages in rural areas, while Missouri is expanding their program. In the future, we expect that additional states will enact loan repayment laws as a way to address rural and public health shortages.

The judicial branch received its fair share of attention in 2007 on issues pertaining to veterinary medicine. The California Supreme Court let stand the City of West Hollywood's ban on animal declawing, possibly inviting similar measures by local governments across the country. Federal courts upheld the Illinois and Texas statutes prohibiting the slaughter of horses for human consumption, effectively shutting down the industry in this country. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in Dec. 2006 that the retail sale of veterinary drugs is not part of the practice of pharmacy regulated by the state board of pharmacy, a loophole that the state legislature failed to address in 2007.

The rest of the year-end report is divided into specific topic areas reflecting a selection of the significant veterinary and animal-related measures considered and/or adopted during 2007. Finally, the report concludes with several bills that have been prefiled for the 2008 legislative sessions.

View year-end summary (PDF)