State Legislative Update - 2011 Year-end Summary

January 4, 2012

View year-end summary (PDF)

The 2011 legislative cycle has proven to be another busy year with more than 140,000 bills introduced and more than 47,000 adopted. The AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department has tracked and distributed to state VMAs more than 1,400 bills and regulations relating to the practice of veterinary medicine.

You may access AVMA state legislative and regulatory information in a number of places on our website. On the state advocacy home page, a user may click on either 2011 State Legislation or 2011 State Regulations located on the left hand side of the page under Resources. This will change to 2012 shortly. Through the state resources page, a user may select his or her state and click on Current legislation tracked by the AVMA or Current regulations tracked by the AVMA.

This end of year report provides both a summary of the various veterinary practice and animal health issues state lawmakers considered in 2011, as well as a more comprehensive review of the bills and regulations tracked by the AVMA. At the end of the report, you will also find a list of prefiled bills for the 2012 legislative session relevant to veterinary medicine.

In the area of animal control, New York adopted legislation to facilitate the release of animals from a pound or shelter to another pound or humane society if it would improve the opportunity for adoption. A variety of bills were introduced in numerous states to address operations of shelters, release of animals, and the authority and responsibility of animal control officers.

States continue to introduce and adopt various animal cruelty bills. Fourteen states adopted bills that increase animal cruelty penalties, establish new animal cruelty crimes, expand the definition of animal fighting, address harm to service animals, and criminalize hunting animals through the Internet. Mississippi and Nevada now treat animal cruelty as felonies; raising the number of states that do so to 47. Seventeen states introduced legislation that would establish animal abuser registries which require individuals convicted of animal cruelty crimes to register with state agencies and provide registry access to the public and government agencies.

Suffolk County in New York is believed to be the first jurisdiction in the United States to require pet stores, breeders, and animal shelters to check an animal abuse registry before allowing the purchase or adoption of animals. Albany County, New York passed a similar ordinance shortly thereafter, with even tougher penalties.Connecticut now requires cross-reporting of child abuse and animal cruelty by the respective regulatory agencies, while Oregon approved legislation requiring a veterinarian to report suspected aggravated animal abuse.

Several states considered various animal identification measures requiring micropchipping of dogs. A new law in Illinois provides that when dogs or cats are apprehended and impounded, they must be scanned for the presence of a microchip and examined for other currently acceptable methods of identification, including, but not limited to, identification tags, tattoos, and rabies license tags.

Once again, animal welfare issues have maintained their prominence in state legislative agendas. Several states introduced and adopted bills on various animal welfare topics including standards of care for companion animals and livestock, animals used in research activities, animal shelter regulations, and restrictions on tethering.

Noteworthy are bills adopted in Oregon and Washington that incorporate private certification standards for egg-laying hens in commercial operations to be phased in over several years. A similar "enriched colony" housing system compromise was the basis of a national agreement reached by the United Egg Producers and Humane Society of the United States, with the goal of enacting national legislation preempting inconsistent state laws.

The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board continues to adopt and draft various livestock care standards, while several other states created or authorized similar boards or agencies. Virginia approved statutory standards of care for agricultural animals, including feed, water, veterinary treatment and exemptions for farming activity and research.

A new California law bans the sale, trade, and possession of shark fin, with some narrow exceptions.

Bills were introduced in Florida, Iowa, Minnesota and New York to criminalize tampering with animal facilities or crop operations by producing and distributing unauthorized audio or visual recordings.

Georgia, Maryland and West Virginia join 14 other states to have legislation requiring engine coolants and antifreeze to contain denatonium benzoate as a bittering agent to render it unpalatable.

Increased media attention on dangerous dogs has pressured state legislatures into proposing new dangerous dog and breed-specific legislation. Dangerous dog bills address civil and criminal penalties, local government authority over dangerous dog ordinances, disposition of dangerous dogs, and owner liability for damage or injury caused by dangerous dogs. Only six states introduced bills relating to breed-specific legislation, but we have seen cities, counties, and municipalities all over the country debating proposed breed-specific ordinances in an effort to curb dog-bite injuries.

States continue to expand emergency preparedness plans to protect companion and service animals. These plans allow veterinarians and other health care practitioners to provide emergency medical assistance to humans and animals without the obstacles created by licensing and liability rules. Nevada enacted the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act (UEVHPA).

Thirteen states considered bills and regulations addressing the proper methods and procedures for euthanasia. This year, Alabama followed Georgia and Louisiana in restricting the use of gas chambers by animal shelters.

The fallout from the ban on equine slaughter and processing has forced state legislatures to consider legislation addressing unwanted horses. In the last two years, some states have introduced resolutions and bills that urge the U.S. Congress to reinstate the USDA's inspection program for horse slaughter facilities, while others have tried to establish equine rescue programs, increase penalties for the sale of horsemeat for human consumption, and provide for the disposition of stray horses and livestock. In 2011, Nebraska authorized a feasibility study of a program of state inspection, possibly leading to the creation of a horse processing plant in the state. With USDA funding for horsemeat inspections restored, applications for horse slaughter plants may soon follow.

Liability issues have permeated both veterinary practice rules and litigation involving companion animals. A handful of states have again rejected bills that would allow the recovery of non-economic damages in companion animal negligence cases. Tennessee adopted legislation that makes it clear that noneconomic damages are not permitted for any claim arising out of harm or loss of property, except as authorized by statute.

Courts also continue to see cases involving the potential recovery of non-economic damages for loss of animals in cases involving negligence. While most opinions continue to reject the award for such damages, a Texas court of appeals ruled in Medlen v. Strickland that an owner can recover intrinsic or sentimental damages for the loss of his or her dog. The decision will likely be appealed so that the state supreme court can resolve conflicting lower court opinions on this topic.

Arkansas established a veterinary loan repayment program for out-of-state veterinary medical education at Mississippi State University, while several other states tweaked existing programs. In addition, the Utah legislature authorized a veterinary education program offered by Utah State University in partnership with Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Budget pressures are leading state lawmakers to search for new sources of revenue. A special commission in Georgia proposed a new service tax on veterinary services, which was ultimately defeated. A New Mexico bill to require registration of manufacturers of livestock biologicals, pharmaceuticals, and other products or substances also was not approved. However, New York passed legislation in 2010 to charge approved continuing education providers a $900 fee for three years along with several documentation requirements. The oversight agency is expected to accommodate continuing education programs offered by recognized national and state veterinary associations and colleges through some type of sponsorship agreement.

States have also continued to expand the authority of courts to issue pet protection orders in cases of domestic violence. Arkansas, California, Maryland, Oregon and Texas joined the growing list of states that allow a court to direct the care, possession, protection, and control of a companion animal exposed to domestic violence. In addition, Georgia and Oklahoma adopted bills recently allowing for the creation of pet trusts to provide for the care of designated companion animals, raising the number of states with such provisions to 44.

Regulation of pet retail and breeders continues to be a major area of focus for state legislatures and regulatory agencies. Legislators in several states, including Oklahoma, Nevada, and Texas approved new or additional regulations applicable to operation of commercial dog and cat breeding. In addition, the Missouri legislature revised the "Proposition B" measure narrowly approved by voters in 2010. The revisions in part change the title of the bill and delete the ban on keeping more than 50 breeding dogs in a facility.

Last year, the AVMA Executive Board approved the AVMA Model Bill and Regulations to Assure Appropriate Care for Dogs Intended for Use as Pets. The AVMA's model bill and backgrounder are designed to provide guidance on this emerging public policy issue to legislators, regulators, and state veterinary medical associations.

In response to concerns over increased, unregulated importation of dogs and cats into the state, Connecticut approved licensure requirements for importers, including annual registration, veterinary examinations, and maintenance of veterinary records.

State boards of pharmacy are continuing to work with veterinary medical boards to establish pharmacy rules and regulations governing veterinary prescriptions and the monitoring of controlled substances. States have continued to establish and amend prescription monitoring programs in order to control the distribution of controlled substances. Highlights in this area include Missouri's law reinstating the authority of the Missouri Pharmacy Board over retail sale of veterinary legend drugs and Maine's legislation to allow a veterinarian to sell and dispense the written prescription of another licensed veterinarian. A Maine bill to require a veterinarian to provide a client with a written prescription, whether or not requested by a client, was not enacted.

In a widely-reported opinion, a federal district court in Florida issued a ruling that denied the Food and Drug Administration's request for an injunction to prohibit a state-licensed pharmacy from engaging in the traditional practice of bulk compounding of animal drugs from bulk active ingredients.

States continue to amend their rabies vaccination and spay/neuter requirements, affecting both veterinary practices and animal shelters. A new law in California exempts from the rabies vaccination requirement, a dog whose life would be endangered due to disease or other considerations, if the dog received the vaccine as determined by a licensed veterinarian, on an annual basis. Several new requirements address spay/neuter of pets adopted from shelters.

After recent high-profile battles over the appropriate scope of practice for non-veterinarians regarding equine dentistry and livestock management procedures, several states adopted compromise measures in 2011.

Oklahoma and Texas created licensing and certification programs for non-veterinary reproductive services technicians and equine dental providers, with veterinary board oversight and certain standards. Arkansas adopted a two-year moratorium, pending further study, for prosecuting unauthorized equine teeth floating or equine massage therapy, with certain conditions. Finally, new Washington Department of Health regulations establish the eligibility, certification, and practice requirements for individuals who limit their practice only to animal massage.

State legislators considered many other bills designed to clarify the scope of practice for various non-veterinarian practitioners who wish to work on animals, including measures addressing complementary and alternative medicine. This issue will likely continue to be an active one for the foreseeable future.

The AVMA has developed and posted on its website several charts providing a comparison of the education, training, certification, and regulatory oversight requirements of veterinarians and non-veterinarian providers in selected areas of veterinary practice. Please note that these charts are intended for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a comprehensive statement on the subject matter covered, but rather a guide that provides practical information for the reader. This list is not exhaustive and not intended to describe every program offered in any covered category.

Veterinary state boards and state legislatures continue to further regulate the practice of veterinary medicine, by introducing and adopting bills relating to licensure, facility standards, recordkeeping and veterinary technicians.

Arizona and Michigan adopted requirements that, generally, a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) must exist before a veterinarian may provide treatment to an animal. Arizona, Colorado and North Dakota passed legislative language to the effect that such a requirement is subject to certain exceptions for dispensing prescription drugs in emergency situations or where the prescribing veterinarian is not available. In 2012, the AVMA is expected to adopt a revised definition of VCPR as part of its review of the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act.

In response to the release of dozens of wild animals from a wildlife reserve in Ohio back in October, several states, including Ohio, are considering strengthening their wild and exotic animal laws. New Nebraska regulations prohibit keeping certain species in captivity and require permitting to keep certain species in captivity.

On another note, the AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department welcomes a new State Policy Analyst, Kristin Poppalardo. Kristin started at the AVMA in December and brings with her a strong policy background and an insider's perspective on the legislative process. For the last 11 years, Kristin has held various positions in the Michigan House of Representatives and Senate, working on several key policy issues in a variety of areas. She is a graduate of Michigan State University with a Bachelor's degree in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy.

The following is a comprehensive review of the bills and regulations tracked by the AVMA this session as well as 2012 prefiled bills. We have included 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)