Posted May 30, 2012
Policy changes enacted in April provide new or adjusted advice from the AVMA on work environments, competition, court-ordered compensation, and consent forms.
The Executive Board revised the policy “Harassment and Discrimination-Free Veterinary Workplace” to provide guidance, rather than an updated model policy, on what employers should include in their workplace policies.
Information provided with the Council on Veterinary Service’s recommendation to make the change indicates the updates are intended to help practices develop policies appropriate for their businesses and compliant with local laws.
The new policy “Delivery of Veterinary Services by Not for Profit/Tax-Exempt Organizations” expresses support for organizations that help indigent and underserved populations receive animal care. It also states that such organizations should comply with regulations on fee-for-service veterinary care and state laws on missions, funding, ownership, licensure, and quality. When applicable, eligibility for such services should be determined through means testing, the policy states.
The policy supersedes two previous policies, “Competition from Tax-Exempt Organizations” and “Unfair Competition by Nonprofit Organizations.” The first of those indicated the AVMA supported efforts to prevent tax-exempt humane organizations and tax-supported governmental animal control agencies from infringing on veterinarians in private practice, and the latter policy supported legislation and regulations that would prohibit unfair competition from nonprofits.
Dr. Carlos E. Bonnot, chair of the Council on Veterinary Service, which recommended the change, said the new policy is intended to show that the AVMA wants to ensure animals receive care and considers the needs of veterinarians who work in private practice and with shelters and animal welfare groups.
He said that, while the AVMA understands some veterinarians are concerned about competition from tax-exempt organizations, the council members were concerned that a more strongly worded policy would give the appearance the Association was trying to stifle trade or wasn’t most concerned about animal welfare.
Information given to the board with the council’s recommendation states that a charitable organization can avoid taxation on income from activities connected with its tax-exempt purpose. Some organizations can receive tax-exempt status for prevention of cruelty to animals, for example, partly to give veterinary care to owners unable to afford fees from private practices.
The policy “Compensatory Value for Animals” became the policy ”Recovery of Monetary Damages in Litigation Involving Animals.” It now states that courts should consider an animal’s economic utility and notes that economic damages beyond those needed to compensate for economic loss could reduce the availability of affordable veterinary care. It also was edited to recognize that punitive damages can be awarded when appropriate, in accordance with state laws.
The AVMA policy “Owner Consent in Veterinary Medicine” also was edited to state that practices may need procedure-specific consent forms.