State governments adopted or considered a variety of measures during 2007 in areas that affect veterinarians—such as animal cruelty, mandatory spay/neuter, and loan repayment.
The AVMA recently released a year-end summary of the new state laws, regulations, and court decisions relevant to the veterinary profession. The report also extends to measures that came under consideration or are still pending.
In 2007, the AVMA's electronic tracking system identified more than 4,400 state bills and regulations of interest to veterinarians. The AVMA Department of State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs distributed 1,390 alerts to state veterinary medical associations. The department responded to 83 requests for research.
States continued to increase penalties for animal cruelty, with 43 states now providing felony penalties. New Mexico and Louisiana became the last states to ban cockfighting. Four states passed laws allowing the inclusion of family pets in orders of protection, while North Dakota joined the growing list of states allowing pet trusts.
Six more states adopted language in 2007 that restricts dog tethering. The AVMA is not aware of any states enacting breed-specific legislation, but several states adopted bills requiring microchip identification of dangerous dogs.
Colorado now requires veterinarians to report instances of animal cruelty and fighting, while North Dakota passed legislation directing veterinarians to report the possibility of child abuse that they suspect from information they receive in a professional capacity. North Carolina and Oregon adopted immunity for veterinarians reporting animal cruelty.
California experienced an emotional battle on the issue of spay/neuter for dogs and cats. The legislature shelved a bill calling for mandatory sterilization, but legislators may introduce a narrower version this year that addresses irresponsible owners.
Maine will have new voluntary humane handling and slaughter standards for livestock, while Oregon will prohibit stalls for housing pregnant sows starting in 2012. California is bracing for a ballot initiative in 2008 on confinement of pigs, calves, and hens on farms.
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 authorizing veterinarians to provide volunteer services during disasters.
The authority of massage therapists, physical therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and equine dental technicians to treat animals is still a major issue for state legislators and regulatory bodies. States adopted or considered a number of new rules to govern animal treatment by such nonveterinarians.
North Dakota established a loan repayment program for large animal veterinarians to help address workforce shortages in rural areas, while Missouri is expanding a similar loan repayment program. In the future, more states may offer loan repayment in response to rural and public health shortages.
The year-end report also addresses state measures on several other topics—such as animal identification, horse slaughter, and pharmaceuticals. The summary concludes with a preview of bills that legislators have pre-filed for 2008.
The report is available at www.avma.org by clicking on State under Advocacy and then clicking on State legislative updates.