State Legislative End of Year Report December 19, 2013

American Veterinary Medical Association
Communications Division
State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department


View year-end summary (PDF)

In contrast with the U.S. Congress, state legislatures have enacted a great deal of legislation in 2013. Out of the almost 135,000 bills introduced this year, about 40,000 have been enacted into law. As usual, many measures relate to animal health and veterinary medicine. The AVMA has reviewed several thousand bills and regulations this year, and distributed more than 1,200 alerts to state veterinary medical associations regarding items deemed especially pertinent to veterinary medicine.

This year-end report provides both a summary of the various veterinary practice and animal health issues state lawmakers considered in 2013, as well as a more comprehensive review of the bills and regulations tracked by the AVMA. We also include several legal and policy developments that are particularly relevant to veterinary medicine. Many topics have hyperlinks at the top of this document.

2013 Highlights

An emerging issue is how to balance the need to decrease the animal overpopulation that exists in some areas with ensuring that veterinary care provided in shelters is of high quality and does not unfairly impinge on private veterinary practice. Florida, Maine and Oklahoma imposed somewhat stricter requirements on animal shelters. Legislation regulating shelters and limiting the scope of veterinary services they can offer proved to be controversial in Alabama and South Carolina. Efforts to come up with a mutually acceptable solution continue in those states. Idaho and Utah are among other states expected to consider similar legislation in 2014.

States continue to increase penalties and expand definitions for a variety of animal cruelty offenses. For example, Michigan now includes animal fighting in the definition of criminal "racketeering," while Nevada increased penalties for animal-fighting offenses and criminalized manufacturing or possessing certain implements intended to be used in cockfighting. New Jersey passed a law that enhances penalties for harm to an animal used by law enforcement.

No state has enacted legislation to create a statewide animal abuse database or registry yet, but bills were introduced this year in 11 states.

Connecticut enacted a law, believed to be the first of its kind adopted by a state, to facilitate the development and implementation of a state-wide animal assisted therapy program, including collaboration with mental health care providers to incorporate animal assisted therapy into the therapy for children and youth.

Washington passed a law providing veterinarians with immunity from liability arising from the good-faith reporting of suspected animal cruelty incidents in the normal course of business.

The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board continues to be very active. In 2013, the agency issued standards for management of dairy cattle; regulations allowing tail docking to be performed by a licensed veterinarian if medically necessary; allowing ritual slaughter as an acceptable form of euthanasia; and approved an exemption for nonapproved methods of euthanasia to prevent a threat to public safety from certain animals.

In 2013, 12 states considered what are known as "ag-gag" laws, bills that criminalize activities related to undercover videotaping or recording of livestock practices. Bills in seven of the states focused on "quick reporting," modeled after the 2012 Missouri legislation that requires the submission of recordings or videos of suspected abuse to a law enforcement agency within 24 hours. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed a bill that called for a person who records cruelty to livestock to report it and submit any unedited photographs or video recordings to law enforcement authorities within 24 hours.

New Jersey legislation to criminalize confining a gestating sow "in a manner that prevents the animal from being able to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, or fully extend its limbs," was also vetoed. Nine states have passed similar bans.

Connecticut and Oregon became the latest of 22 states to enact various prohibitions on tethering of dogs.

While no state has passed legislation this year to require the addition of a bittering agent to antifreeze, the major development in this area was an agreement between the Consumer Specialty Products Association and the Humane Society of the United States. Under the terms of the deal, manufacturers will voluntarily add a bitter-flavoring agent to antifreeze and engine coolant manufactured for sale for the consumer market in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The move is designed to prevent animals and children from being poisoned by the sweet-tasting liquid. Several states have previously passed legislation to accomplish this goal, and even Congress considered such regulation in the past.

Connecticut, Nevada and Vermont passed various prohibitions on using breed to make a determination of a vicious or dangerous dog. Maryland legislators continue to weigh a legislative response to overturn a court ruling last year that found that an owner of a pit bull or a pit bull mix involved in an attack is strictly liable for the damages caused by the dog on the owner's premises.

Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Texas passed provisions to allow volunteer health practitioners, including veterinarians, to provide services during declared disasters. North Dakota has a new law that provides for immunity for veterinarians who render emergency treatment to a sick or injured animal.

The AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals, incorporated or referenced in several state laws, have been revised after more than three years of deliberation by more than 60 individuals, including veterinarians, animal scientists, behaviorists, psychologists and an animal ethicist. Originally published in 1963 and updated at least once every 10 years, the guidelines are designed for use by veterinarians who carry out or oversee the euthanasia of animals. In previous editions of the guidelines, the use of carbon monoxide (CO) or carbon dioxide (CO2) gas was considered "acceptable" for euthanasia of dogs and cats. In the 2013 guidelines, the classification for use of these gases has been changed to "acceptable with conditions."

A new Connecticut law provides that whenever any cat or dog is euthanized, the procedure must be performed in a humane manner by a licensed veterinarian. Exceptions include farm animals or livestock, and law enforcement officers acting in the course of their duties. Idaho and Wyoming made changes to their definitions of animal euthanasia technician.

Connecticut and Maine became the first states to pass legislation requiring food manufacturers to label products that contain genetically modified ingredients. However, neither law will take effect unless several other nearby states adopt similar legislation. Meanwhile, several states are considering similar bills. Washington State voters defeated a ballot initiative that called for foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) to be labeled. Initiative 522 would have made Washington the first state in the nation to require such labeling, likely providing momentum to other states to follow suit. In 2012, California voters defeated a similar measure.

The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted a New Mexico company's request to convert its cattle facility into a horse-processing plant and may approve facilities in other states soon. A lawsuit is attempting to stop the inspections on the grounds that the agency failed to conduct the necessary environmental review.

Oklahoma legislators authorized regulated horse slaughter under certain conditions, reversing a 50-year-old ban on horse slaughter for human consumption. The bill continues the existing ban on the sale of horse meat for consumption in the state, however.

The Texas Supreme Court issued a long-awaited opinion in Medlen v. Strickland, refusing to allow noneconomic damages for loss of a pet in a case involving a local municipal shelter. The plaintiffs argued that a pet owner should be entitled to loss of "intrinsic" value for the sentimental loss of their property, much like courts allow for loss of a rare family heirloom. The court, while sympathetic to the Medlens' loss, refused to overturn long-standing precedent in the law governing personal injury and damages.

In November, the animal rights group Nonhuman Rights Project filed three lawsuits in New York state courts asking judges to declare that chimpanzees have legal standing and the right to bodily liberty. The lawsuits target two research chimps at a university and two chimps held on private property, and request that the animals be moved to a sanctuary. In all three cases, judges denied the writ for habeas corpus, which allows a person who is under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court. The decisions will be appealed, with appellate court hearings expected in 2014.

Considerable activity continues in the area of regulating pet breeders and retailers. After seven years of debate, legislation was signed in Ohio to provide a regulatory framework for the high-volume commercial breeding of dogs. The state's department of agriculture then issued regulations addressing housing, socialization, food, health requirements, record keeping, transportation, licensing, inspections and civil penalties.

Georgia, Oklahoma, Vermont and West Virginia also enacted regulations dealing with commercial dog-breeding and dealers.

New Illinois legislation requires pet stores to give purchasers of dogs or cats a refund or replacement for animals that are later determined to be unfit for sale due to illness or disease. The new law also requires pet stores to report any outbreak of diseases to the state and inform customers if a quarantine is declared.

A New Jersey bill was introduced to require veterinarians to provide written prescriptions as well as oral and written notification that the prescription item may be obtained from sources other than the veterinarian. The Oregon Veterinary Medical Examining Board is considering regulations to require veterinarians to provide a written prescription to a client upon request. Similar legislation was not introduced in Congress in 2013. The Federal Trade Commission has not yet issued a report or findings after holding a workshop on this topic in the fall of 2012.

The State Agricultural and Rural Leaders, a national group of state legislators, endorsed a resolution supporting The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act of 2013, currently pending in the U.S. Congress. The legislation aims to change federal law that some DEA offices have interpreted as prohibiting veterinarians from transporting controlled substances to administer and treat patients outside of a registered location. The amendment would clarify that a veterinarian may transport controlled substances outside a registered location (i.e., clinic, hospital, office or clinician's home) to provide comprehensive veterinary care and to protect animal health and welfare.

Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, Texas and Virginia issued rules clarifying in-office use or dispensing of compounded products. The newly-passed federal law, the Drug Quality and Security Act, only regulates compounding pharmacies that produce drugs for human medicine. However, some of the compounding pharmacies that are subject to the law also compound drugs for veterinary medicine and will be impacted.

Concluding a five-year study, a Kansas legislative task force reached the conclusion that veterinarians should not be included in the state's prescription monitoring program. Similarly, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin have decided to exempt licensed veterinarians from the requirements of their state programs, either completely or in certain conditions. Connecticut, Louisiana and Rhode Island made changes or expanded their prescription monitoring programs, which include veterinarians as mandated reporters. The Washington State Department of Health issued rules to implement statutory law that provides alternative, less-burdensome reporting requirements for veterinarians.

The Colorado Board of Veterinary Medicine amended the definition of the practice of veterinary medicine to include veterinary dentistry. The definition includes teeth floating but not teeth cleaning or preventive dental procedures limited to the utilization of cotton swabs, gauze, dental floss, dentifrice or toothbrushes on an animal's teeth. The California Veterinary Medical Board also expanded the terms "dental operations" and "preventive dental procedures," as part of the practice of veterinary medicine, to include the application of a scaler to any portion of an animal's tooth, gum or any related tissue for the prevention, cure or relief of a wound, fracture, injury or disease.

A Missouri Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's judgment prohibiting a nonveterinarian from performing equine tooth floating, rejecting the argument that the state has no rational basis for taking action against nonveterinarian tooth floaters while declining to take action against nonveterinarian farriers.

Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and West Virginia adopted bills or regulations to help fund spay-neuter programs.

In 2013, governors' proposed budgets included taxing veterinary services in Louisiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Puerto Rico. These efforts were defeated due to strong opposition from consumers and veterinarians.

New Florida regulations state that no more than five hours in complementary and alternative medicine modalities may be credited toward the required number of continuing professional education hours needed to renew a veterinary license.

Connecticut passed legislation making it the 13th state in the nation to incorporate the AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics, in whole or in part, in determining what constitutes "unprofessional conduct" by licensed veterinarians.

Florida regulations enhance the requirements related to the provision of services at limited-service veterinary clinics, as well as the hours of operation. Alabama regulations specify requirements for issuing temporary and inactive licenses.

The California Legislature amended its laws concerning the inspection of veterinary premises and called on the California Veterinary Medical Board to make every effort to inspect at least 20% of veterinary premises on an annual basis. For its part, the board updated minimum standards for fixed veterinary premises and small animal mobile clinics.

A new Maine law authorizes the legal guardian or personal representative of a licensed veterinarian who dies or is incapacitated to contract with another veterinarian to continue the operations of the practice for up to 24 months after the death or incapacitation, or until the practice is sold.

The Colorado State Board of Veterinary Medicine revised its rules to allow indirect supervision by a veterinarian in narrow circumstances, such as a veterinary technician administering medications overnight to a hospitalized patient.

The California Veterinary Medical Board adopted a new definition of "Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship," (VCPR) that allows a designated veterinarian to provide care in the absence of client communication or absence of the originally prescribing veterinarian.

The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners ruled that for purposes of establishing a VCPR, a veterinarian can obtain sufficient knowledge of an animal by making medically appropriate and timely visits to the premises on which the animal is kept only if the animal is a member of a herd, defined as a group of animals of the same species, managed as a group and confined to a specific geographic location.

New Georgia regulations clarify that veterinarians who wish to retain their license but do not want to meet the continuing education requirements may apply for an "inactive license."

Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas made changes in laws and regulations pertaining to licensure, registration, and scope of practice of veterinary technicians and assistants.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture approved new rules regulating care, housing, and caging standards for wild and dangerous animals, including monitoring for disease and requiring corrective measures under veterinary guidance.

AVMA's 150th Anniversary

In recognition of the AVMA's 150th anniversary this year, 26 states have issued proclamations and letters honoring veterinarians: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The proclamations and letters were displayed during the AVMA's annual convention July 19-23 in Chicago. The AVMA would like to express its appreciation to the governors and legislators who took the time and effort to honor the societal contributions of veterinary medicine, as well as the state veterinary medical associations for assisting AVMA in securing the acknowledgments.

The following is a comprehensive review of the bills and regulations tracked by the AVMAthis session. We have included both adopted measures – those that were signed into law or received final regulatory approval – as well as some of the most significant bills and regulatory proposals that were introduced but have not yet been adopted into law. For a more detailed analysis on any of these topics, please contact the avmastatelegatavma [dot] org (AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department).

View year-end summary (PDF)​