California has passed legislation to ensure that lay staff can administer controlled substances such as pain medication on the order of a veterinarian.
The state law came about as a result of the California Veterinary Medical Board's re-interpretation of the federal Controlled Substances Act. For years, according to the California VMA, unregistered assistants as well as registered veterinary technicians had administered controlled substances under the indirect supervision of a veterinarian.
In June 2006, the board's legal counsel interpreted the federal act as permitting veterinarians to delegate administration of controlled substances to staff only under immediate supervision—in the physical presence of the veterinarian—absent regulations to the contrary. The board's counsel also interpreted the act as constraining the regulations from permitting veterinarians to delegate administration of controlled substances to unregistered assistants under indirect supervision.
In October 2006, the board adopted regulations spelling out the authority of veterinarians to delegate administration of controlled substances to veterinary technicians under direct or indirect supervision, and to unregistered assistants under direct supervision.
With support from the California VMA, state legislators passed a law this summer that also allows unregistered assistants to administer controlled substances under indirect supervision.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the legislation July 17. The law will become effective Jan. 1, 2008, according to the California VMA. It will remain in effect until Jan. 1, 2012.
Correction: An earlier version of this article inaccurately stated that only a veterinarian may induce anesthesia in California. In California, a registered veterinary technician may induce anesthesia under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian.