American Veterinary Medical Association
State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department
View year-end summary (PDF)
This year-end report provides both a summary of the various veterinary practice and animal health issues state lawmakers and regulators adopted and considered in 2014, as well as a more comprehensive review of the bills and regulations tracked by the AVMA. The hyperlinks at the top link directly to the several key issue areas debated in the states in 2014. The report also includes a few court decisions that are particularly relevant to veterinary medicine, as well as a few other significant local government developments.
The Republican Party's state legislative successes on November 4 mirrored its success at the federal level. 6,057 (82.0%) of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats were up for election during this midterm election. Republicans will now control 68 legislative chambers, and Democrats will have a majority in 30. There will be 31 Republican governors, 18 Democratic governors and one independent.
All 13 veterinarian state legislators whose seats were up for re-election this year won their races. They are Dr. Joe Seng (Iowa), Dr. Dan Brown (Missouri), Dr. Steve Katz (New York), Dr. Bill Rabon (North Carolina), Dr. Trudy Wade (North Carolina), Dr. Lee Denney (Oklahoma), Dr. Brian Renegar (Oklahoma), Dr. Charles "Doc" Anderson (Texas), Dr. Jimmie Don Aycock (Texas), Dr. John Bartholomew (Vermont), Dr. Kathy Haigh (Washington), Dr. Dean Knudson (Wisconsin) and Dr. Fred Emerich (Wyoming).
Note that Dr. Denney will serve as speaker pro tem in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the second-in-command after the speaker. She has two more years to serve before she runs up against the House's 12-year term limit.
Dr. Henry Vaupel was elected to his first term in Michigan's 47th House District. On the other hand, Dr. Krayton Kerns (Montana) and Dr. John Mathis (Utah) retired from their state legislatures and did not run in 2014. This leaves 18 veterinarians serving in state legislatures in 2015.
Regardless of party control, actions by state legislatures and regulatory agencies will continue to impact animal health and veterinary practice. Overall, of the more than 170,000 bills introduced in the 2013-14 state legislative sessions, almost 70,000 have been passed into law. As always, these include several measures that impact the practice of veterinary medicine and animals. The AVMA has tracked and sent approximately 1,000 alerts to state veterinary medical associations in 2014, and will continue to do so as bills and regulations are introduced, amended and adopted. Keep in mind that regulatory agency proposals pending at this time may be considered next year. Legislative bills currently pending in New Jersey and Virginia carry over and are still active for 2015. Several other state legislatures have begun to accept prefiled bills for next year.
Pharmacy continues to be an area that generates considerable interest and activity at the state level. A good example is compounding, where well-publicized incidents have led to renewed efforts to regulate the practice. A new Virginia law allows a veterinarian to dispense a compounded drug distributed from a pharmacy under certain circumstances. Minnesota enacted legislation permitting a practitioner to prepare a supply of a compounded drug product sufficient to meet his or her need for dispensing or administering the drug to patients. Similarly, new Delaware rules allow compounding of a controlled substance by a veterinarian as long as certain standards are met.
A few states made changes to their prescription monitoring programs. Colorado, Idaho and Rhode Island require practitioners, including veterinarians, to participate in their programs. On the other hand, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin took steps to exempt veterinarians from prescription monitoring reporting requirements.
The Delaware Secretary of State adopted several significant rules, including restrictions on dispensing of controlled substances and a new requirement that a veterinarian must advise a client that a prescription for a controlled substance may be filled in the veterinarian's office or any pharmacy.
Montana and Oregon adopted requirements that a veterinarian provide a prescription for a medication if one is requested by a client. The Washington Department of Health is among several regulatory agencies that are weighing similar proposals. The Iowa Board of Pharmacy Examiners issued a rule amendment requiring a pharmacist to perform a final verification for the accuracy, validity, completeness and appropriateness of a patient's prescription or medication order prior to delivery to the patient or patient's representative.
California's governor vetoed a bill that proposed restrictions on registration and administration of medically important antimicrobials to food-producing animals for non-routine disease control. The veto message stated that codifying a voluntary FDA standard that phases out antibiotic use for growth promotion is unnecessary since most major animal producers have already pledged to go beyond the FDA standard. A more restrictive bill was prefiled for 2015 however.
States continue to grapple with scope-of-practice issues. Tennessee now categorizes artificial insemination of livestock as an accepted livestock management practice, therefore exempting the procedure from the definition of the practice of veterinary medicine. However, the definition of veterinary medicine now encompasses complementary therapies such as acupuncture and massage therapy. A new law in Utah allows animal shelter employees to administer a rabies vaccination to a shelter animal under the indirect supervision of a veterinarian who has a contract with the shelter.
In addition, Nevada, New York and Vermont passed measures to specifically include dentistry in the definition of practice of veterinary medicine, with some exceptions. In Nevada, veterinary dentistry generally may only be performed by a veterinarian under general anesthesia with the use of an endotracheal tube with an inflated cuff. Colorado regulators clarified rules on the level of supervision required for teeth floating.
The California Department of Consumer Affairs ordered a company to pay $150,000 in restitution for the unlicensed practice of veterinary medicine in illegally advertising and performing anesthesia-free pet teeth cleaning services without a licensed veterinarian.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon in a case that could have a profound impact on the ability of state boards to limit unlicensed and unregulated individuals from working on animals. An appeals court ruled that decisions of the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners related to unauthorized and unlawful dental practice are subject to federal antitrust law. If affirmed, this decision could potentially strip various state licensing boards of their authority to regulate and protect the public from unlawful practice.
Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia joined 23 other states that allow a court to include pets or companion animals in an order of domestic protection. In 2014, Mississippi became the 47th state to allow for the creation of a trust to provide for an animal that outlives its owner. California's governor vetoed a bill that would have authorized a court to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interest of an animal for which a trust has been established.
A new law in Colorado allows an emergency medical service provider to provide pre-veterinary emergency care to dogs and cats with appropriate training and authority by the employer. Arizona has a new law that allows temporary permits to veterinarians licensed in other states who enter the state to provide voluntary services during a state of emergency. Hawaii and Massachusetts included pets and the needs of their owners in their respective emergency management legislation.
The past few years have seen several states consider laws addressing the keeping of wild and exotic animals. In 2014, Louisiana, Oregon and West Virginia adopted measures to restrict and regulate possession of these types of animals. Forty-five states now have laws in place to restrict private possession of dangerous wild animals. New York passed legislation to limit direct contact between the public and big cats.
In a closely watched equine liability case in Connecticut, the state's supreme court found that an owner or keeper of a domestic animal has a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent injuries that are foreseeable. But the court did not adopt a rule under which a keeper of a horse can be held strictly liable for injuries caused by the animal. The legislature also passed a law that clearly establishes that in any civil action brought against the owner or keeper of a horse, pony, donkey or mule to recover damages for personal injury allegedly caused by such animal, there is a presumption that the animal did not have a propensity to engage in behavior that would foreseeably cause injury to humans.
Minnesota enacted a law, believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S., providing that a higher education research facility that is publicly funded and confines dogs or cats for science, education or research purposes and plans on euthanizing a dog or cat for reasons other than those purposes, must first offer the dog or cat to an animal rescue organization. Similar bills have been introduced in other states.
Connecticut and Minnesota adopted new laws to regulate and fund licensing and inspection of commercial dog and cat breeders. The Connecticut law also provides dog and cat purchasers with remedies if an animal purchased at retail is later found to have a congenital defect. The new law further restricts pet shops from obtaining animals from breeders who are not licensed by USDA or who have violations of pet dealer-related regulations. A number of local governments have enacted bans prohibiting pet shops from selling dogs and cats obtained from commercial breeders. At least two of these ordinances have been challenged in court.
Maryland, South Dakota and Utah enacted bills against breed-specific dog ordinances. However, Aurora, Colo., voters defeated a ballot question proposing to overturn the city's nine-year-old ordinance banning several pit bull breeds from city limits.
Massachusetts has become the 28th state to require a veterinarian to report suspected animal cruelty observed in the normal course of business. The bill provides immunity from civil or criminal liability for good-faith reporting.
Maryland now prohibits a person from performing the following: surgically devocalizing a dog or cat; cropping or cutting off the ear of a dog; docking or cutting of the tail of a dog; cutting off the dewclaw of a dog; or surgically birthing a dog. The new law leaves an exemption for veterinarians using anesthesia under specified circumstances.
New York enacted bills that prohibit companion animal piercing and tattooing except when performed by a licensed veterinarian or under his or her supervision in conjunction with a medical procedure for the benefit of the animal. Tattooing is permissible for the purpose of identification of the companion animal. The new restrictions do not prohibit ear tags on rabbits and cavies.
Rhode Island passed legislation making it a crime to confine an animal in a motor vehicle in a manner that places the animal in a life or extreme health threatening situation. The bill also allows an officer to take all steps that are reasonably necessary to remove an animal from a motor vehicle if its health, safety or well-being appears to be in immediate danger.
The Louisiana Board of Animal Health and Kentucky Department of Agriculture issued rules for the care and well-being of various livestock and poultry.
A federal court dismissed a lawsuit brought by six states challenging California's legislation requiring import compliance with its cage confinement requirements for laying hens on the grounds that states could not sue on behalf of their residents. Egg producers may file their own challenge now.
Florida, Ohio and the District of Columbia beefed up their rules and standards concerning veterinary premises or facilities.
Oklahoma regulations add oversight of animal shelters to the current commercial pet breeder regulatory program. A new law in Delaware provides for regulation of companion animals in shelters, including annual inspections. A Texas court found that animals treated in nonprofit or municipal shelters are considered to be treated by the animals' "owner," and thus their care is exempt from certain provisions of the veterinary practice act.
The definition of unprofessional conduct in Montana, Nevada and North Dakota now includes advertising, stating or implying that a veterinarian is a certified or recognized specialist in a given field unless he or she is a diplomate of a specialty board recognized by the AVMA.
The Ohio State Veterinary Licensing Board is requiring effective means of anesthesia monitoring if surgery is performed and has issued standards for companion animal home visits, vaccine clinics and livestock ambulatory units, along with revising the criteria for selection of applicants in the veterinary loan forgiveness program.
Maryland adopted regulations requiring that in nonemergency cases, a veterinarian must inform the client, in a manner that is understandable by a reasonable person, of the diagnostic and treatment plan, as well as a written estimate of the charges for the services.
Iowa and Colorado boards issued rules that a veterinarian-client-patient relationship cannot be established by contact solely based on a telephonic or electronic communication. In Iowa, a veterinarian now must maintain for at least five years an easily retrievable veterinary record for each patient.
New rules in Montana state that information in veterinary medical records is privileged and confidential and may not be released except under specific circumstances. Also, a veterinarian will be allowed to retain an animal or refuse to release records for failure to payveterinary bills. California passed a law requiring a veterinarian or animal care facility left with an abandoned animal to try to find the owner or turn the animal over to a shelter or rescue within 10 days before the animal can be euthanized.
The Tennessee Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners adopted a requirement for continuing education specifically pertaining to regulatory issues, controlled substances or professional ethics.
California became the first state in the nation to impose basic requirements for pet insurance, including certain disclosures and a cancellation period.
In December, a New York appeals court unanimously affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking legal personhood for a chimpanzee. The court noted that unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions. In a separate case filed by the same organization, judges in another New York appeals court are expected to rule in early 2015 whether a privately owned chimpanzee should be considered a legal person with a right to "not be owned or imprisoned."
For more information on these legislative or regulatory measures, please contact the AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department at avmastatelegavma [dot] org. You may also contact the appropriate state veterinary medical association for more information. For a list of these associations, please visit https://www.avma.org/advocacy/stateandlocal/statevma/pages/default.aspx
View year-end summary (PDF)