State Legislative Update - 2010 Year-end Summary

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

December 15, 2010

View year-end summary (PDF)

The 2010 legislative session proved to be another busy year in state legislatures. There were over 90,000 bills introduced with more than 30,000 adopted over the course of 2010. The AVMA Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department tracked and sent over 1200 bills related to the practice of veterinary medicine to state veterinary medical associations this year. We also have also begun tracking almost 50 prefiled bills for the 2011 legislative session that are relevant to veterinary medicine.

New Jersey, Ohio and the District of Columbia are still in regular session and will adjourn in just a few short weeks. Alabama is in special session and the US Congress is scheduled to adjourn at the end of the month. There are already 19 states currently prefiling for 2011.

2010 was an election year that brought major change to the make-up of state legislatures. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Republican candidates picked up roughly 680 Democratic-held seats, effectively changing majority control in 22 legislative chambers all in the direction of the GOP. There are now more Republican state legislators (3,941) than at any point since they held 4,001 seats after the 1928 election.

Several veterinarians were seeking state legislative offices in the 2010 elections. Four veterinarians in North Carolina, New York, Wisconsin and Wyoming were elected to state office for the first time. Two veterinarians in Missouri and New Hampshire moved from the House to the Senate in their state legislatures and eight veterinarians were re-elected in Georgia, Iowa, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Washington. Overall, 22 veterinarians will serve in state legislatures next year and two in Congress.

The following report contains a summary of some of the most prominent legislation that was considered in 2010 and relates in some way to the practice of veterinary medicine. The attached report contains a more comprehensive review of the bills tracked by the AVMA over the course of the year.

Animal cruelty continues to be a hot topic as several state legislatures introduced and/or adopted bills that increase the penalties for animal cruelty related offenses including failure to provide proper care and animal fighting. In addition, the US Supreme Court struck down a federal law that prohibited videos depicting graphic violence against animals finding that it was overbroad.

States continue to grapple with various animal welfare issues both for domestic animals and for animals used for agricultural purposes. Issues such as tethering, devocalization, animal hoarding, and animal housing continue to be considered in several different states. Most notably in 2010, Massachusetts adopted a bill prohibiting the debarking or silencing of a dog or cat unless it is deemed medically necessary by a veterinarian.

Many states continue to introduce and adopt bills attempting to regulate dog and cat breeders. The bills include such language as limits on the number of breeding dogs and cats as well as animal welfare related issues. In Missouri, voters approved Proposition B, a ballot measure imposing new regulations on large-scale breeding operations. The new law restricts facilities to no more than 50 breeding dogs, increases the size of dogs' living spaces and requires yearly visits from a veterinarian, although legislation will be considered in 2011 to roll back some or all of these provisions. In 2010, the AVMA also adopted a model bill and regulations to help states ensure the well-being of dogs bred and sold as pets but not protected by the Animal Welfare Act or similar regulations.

Scope of practice for veterinarians and non-veterinarians is emerging as a major issue in state legislatures, especially in the areas of equine teeth floating and livestock reproductive services. After several years of debate, the Oklahoma Legislature adopted a bill giving non-veterinary practitioners the authority to perform teeth floating on equines. The bill also removed animal husbandry from the definition of veterinary medicine. As a follow-up, the Oklahoma Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners promulgated an emergency rule stating that acts of reproduction services such as pregnancy diagnosis by ultrasound and embryo transfer are not part of the definition of animal husbandry and as such remain covered within the definition of veterinary medicine. This issue is likely to produce more legislation next year, not only in Oklahoma, but in other states as well.

Tennessee adopted new exemptions from the practice of veterinary medicine for embryo removal and manual procedures for testing of pregnancy in bovine animals when performed by a farmer who is not compensated and the results are for the owner's use only.

New Hampshire adopted a bill giving the Board of Veterinary Medicine jurisdiction over physical therapists practicing on animals.

Connecticut enacted a new loan repayment program for residents who agree to work in the state for five years following graduation from an accredited veterinary medicine program. Maine also adopted a program to allow veterinary students or persons eligible for licensure as a veterinarian to apply for a loan repayment program in exchange for practicing for a certain amount of time as a large animal veterinarian. Missouri appropriated $120,000 to its loan repayment program and Wyoming modified its program to require graduates who enter into the program to be licensed in the state of Wyoming.

Other issues dominating state legislatures this year include animal disease, breed-specific legislation, dangerous dog regulation, emergency preparedness, regulation of euthanasia procedures, pet protection orders, pet trusts, rabies control, and spay/neuter programs.

In 2011, we look forward to a comprehensive review of the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act, which could produce several important changes. The model act is intended as guidance to state legislators and regulators overseeing the profession of veterinary medicine in their states.

For a more comprehensive review of legislation introduced and adopted during the 2010 legislative session please see the attached document. 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)