A new law in New Jersey allows veterinarians to earn continuing education credits by providing free services for low-income clients, animal shelters, or groups that manage colonies of feral cats.
Rick Alampi, executive director of the New Jersey VMA, said the NJVMA strongly opposed the legislation.
"It took us probably 15 years to finally get mandatory continuing education for relicensure passed in New Jersey," Alampi said. "We truly believe that this guts the very intent of continuing education."
The legislation began as a bill to permit physicians to earn educational credits by volunteering free medical services for low-income patients. An amendment, in its original form, would have allowed veterinarians to offset as much as their entire CE requirement by providing free neutering of dogs or cats belonging to low-income clients or of feral cats in colonies.
The New Jersey Legislature passed a subsequent version of the bill that would allow veterinarians to offset only half their CE requirement by providing free neutering services and that directed the state's veterinary board to designate core CE courses "necessary to maintain currency in professional knowledge and skills in order to deliver competent veterinary care."
When the bill went to Gov. Chris Christie, the NJVMA's lobbyist persuaded one of Christie's counselors that the governor should further modify the legislation through a conditional veto. A key change was allowing veterinarians to earn only 10 percent of their CE requirement by providing volunteer services.
In the conditional veto, Christie wrote: "While I commend the sponsors for the salutary goal of encouraging physicians and veterinarians to volunteer their services during this difficult economic time when many are unable to afford medical care for themselves or their animals, I am concerned that the fundamental purpose of continuing education is not necessarily served by provision of volunteer services."
Another of the governor's changes was allowing veterinarians to earn CE credit for providing any volunteer services, not just free neutering, for animal shelters as well as low-income clients and colonies of feral cats.
Information about state legislation relevant to veterinarians is available here.