On July 2, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law legislation forbidding California municipalities from outlawing veterinary medical procedures considered legal by the state, effective Jan. 1, 2010.
S.B. 762 is not specific to veterinary medicine but protects all healing arts licensees engaging in acts or performing procedures that fall within their professionally recognized scope of practice. The California VMA supported the legislation to counter efforts to ban state-approved veterinary procedures at the local level.
Two states enacted similar legislation earlier this year. Tennessee prohibits local governments from restricting the authorized practice of veterinary medicine, including the regulation of any act or procedure used within the practice of veterinary medicine. And in Georgia, local governments can't adopt any regulation governing animal husbandry practices involved in the production of agriculture or farm products on private property.
CVMA President Mark T. Nunez said passage of S.B. 762 was among the association's top legislative priorities for 2010, and the CVMA was pleased that the bill had the support of large majorities in both the senate and assembly.
"With our current budget crisis, the governor has been very reluctant to sign bills that were not related to the budget," Dr. Nunez said, "but he believed, as did we, that the regulation of veterinary medicine should be made by educated veterinary professionals at the state level and not by local municipalities."
In 2003, the West Hollywood, Calif., city council deemed onychectomies on domestic cats for nontherapeutic purposes a form of animal cruelty and became the first U.S. city to outlaw the procedure.
Two years later, the CVMA sued, saying the city ordinance infringed on veterinarians' state-granted rights to practice within the scope of the licenses. The state superior court sided with the association, but West Hollywood won on appeal, and then the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case, which allowed the ordinance to stand (see JAVMA, Nov. 15, 2007).
S.B. 762 doesn't cancel ordinances already on the books, however, and the CVMA is not yet ready to declare victory since cities and counties still have until the Jan. 1, 2010, deadline to enact new bans.
"We are, of course, concerned that there will be a rush of local municipalities passing bans on veterinary procedures before the January first deadline," Dr. Nunez said. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is currently considering a ban on cat declaws, he added.