Prepared by AVMA State Relations
July 1, 2015
As many state legislatures wind down for the year, this is a good time to review how animal health and veterinary medicine have fared. Of the more than 86,000 bills introduced so far this year in the states, about 18,000 have been passed into law. As always, these include several measures that impact the practice of veterinary medicine. The AVMA has tracked and sent to state veterinary medical associations more than 800 alerts since January 2015 and will continue to do so as bills and regulations are introduced, amended and adopted. Some of the bills and regulations that are currently categorized as "introduced" in this report will ultimately become law by the end of the year, while others will fail to win final approval.
This mid-year report provides both a summary of the various veterinary practice and animal health issues state lawmakers have considered so far in 2015, as well as a more comprehensive review of the bills and regulations tracked by the AVMA. The report also includes several court decisions that are particularly relevant to veterinary medicine, as well as a few significant local government developments. The hyperlinks at the top of this document link directly to key issue areas for more details. This summary and report will be updated at the end of the year.
State lawmakers are increasingly dealing with issues involving animal shelters, with the trend toward more oversight of these facilities. For example, Alabama and Delaware imposed reporting, training and inspection requirements for shelters. In Idaho, the veterinary association and the state’s largest humane society reached an agreement regarding the latter’s provision of veterinary services to the public. The agreement covers the types of services that can be offered and instances when income means testing is appropriate. Several other states are considering legislation addressing subsidized veterinary care provided by non-profit organizations.
We are continuing to see a trend of increased penalties and more expansive definitions of animal cruelty and abuse. Oregon and Washington passed measures to allow law enforcement officers to enter motor vehicles to provide animals with food, water and emergency medical treatment, or remove animal that are considered in danger. Tennessee’s new law provides immunity from civil liability for damage resulting from the forcible entry of a motor vehicle for the purpose of removing a minor or animal from the vehicle in prescribed circumstances.
Utah and Virginia passed legislation to prohibit specifically the practice of horse tripping. Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington strengthened their anti-animal fighting statutes.
Tennessee became the first jurisdiction to adopt a statewide animal abuse registry, where the names and photographs of individuals who are convicted of certain criminal offenses against non-livestock will be published.
New York’s new law prohibits 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.
West Virginia approved standards governing the care and well-being of livestock. New Jersey’s governor vetoed a bill to prohibit confinement of sows during gestation.
The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services issued regulations addressing euthanasia in animal shelters, including qualification of personnel and acceptable methods. Florida and West Virginia agencies adopted AVMA-approved guidelines as approved methods of euthanasia.
New Jersey adopted comprehensive legislation regulating pet stores, which will be required to make available to consumers certain information. The new law also restricts the sale of animals purchased from breeders or brokers who have had certain state or federal violations.
Virginia also passed a law requiring that dogs sold at pet shops be procured from a humane society or animal shelter, or from a person who has not received a certain number of related federal law citations. The new measure also prohibits the sale of dogs and cats in public places such as roadsides and parks.
A number of municipalities, including Chicago and New York, also adopted various restrictions on pet stores selling dogs and cats obtained from commercial, non-shelter sources. The New York City ordinance has a provision requiring mandatory sterilization of dogs and cats at a certain age and weight prior to sale from a pet shop. This ordinance is currently being challenged in court.
A New York state appeals court affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project seeking legal personhood for a chimpanzee. The litigation is expected to continue.
A new Ohio statute allows inclusion of companion animals in various protection and anti-stalking domestic violence orders.
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. As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers issuing guidance related to veterinary compounding, states are also taking action.
According to a new law in Florida, the state’s pharmacy laws do not prohibit a veterinarian from administering a compounded drug to a patient or dispensing a compounded drug to the patient's owner or caretaker.
The Louisiana Board of Pharmacy issued a temporary, emergency rule authorizing pharmacies to compound drugs for office use intended for administration by veterinarians for emergency use without the necessity of a patient-specific prescription, with certain limits on the quantity distributed.
Oklahoma regulations now allow pharmacies to prepare compounded drug preparations for a licensed veterinarian's office use, but the product must be administered in the office and not dispensed to the patient.
A few states, such as Maine and Nevada, made changes to their prescription monitoring programs. New Hampshire legislation removed veterinarians who dispense less than a prescribed amount from the definition of dispensers who are required to register with the controlled drug prescription program.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published a long-awaited report on the pet medication industry. Among the findings are that improved consumer access to prescriptions would likely enhance competition in the pet medication industry, but the report indicates that the agency does not have sufficient data to evaluate the overall economic effect of any specific proposal.
A pending New Jersey bill proposes that veterinarians who prescribe or dispense prescription items must provide a client with a written prescription, whether or not requested. This bill, which is similar to one introduced in Congress in recent years, has not been adopted to date. Meanwhile, 35 states have laws, regulations or policy statements that specifically or implicitly require veterinarians to provide their clients with a written prescription upon request.
The FDA issued a final rule for the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), which will cement veterinary oversight of medically important antibiotics used in feed for food animals. The final rule states that veterinarians must follow state laws related to the veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR), provided that they apply to the VFD. Otherwise, veterinarians must meet the criteria for the federally defined VCPR to issue an order for a VFD.
Legislation is pending in California, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania to impose various restrictions on non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock.
Connecticut and Nevada joined Minnesota in passing legislation aimed at offering for adoption animals previously used in research.
In a highly published and potentially far-reaching decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the FTC has jurisdiction over a state disciplinary board’s action to restrict non-licensed individuals from activities it deems to be within the scope of the licensed profession. As a result, state licensing boards across all professions will need to ensure that potentially anti-competitive actions follow clearly articulated state policy and that the state is actively supervising their decisions.
Indiana adopted a measure to exclude equine massage therapy from the definition of the practice of veterinary medicine. However, prescribing drugs, performing surgery and diagnosing medical conditions remain within the scope of practice of veterinary medicine.
Maine excluded microchip implants and embryo transfer from the definition of the practice of veterinary medicine.
State legislatures and/or governors in Connecticut, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Puerto Rico have proposed imposing a sales tax on veterinary services as a way to increase revenue and adapt to an economy that increasingly features services provided rather than goods sold. As of press time, none of these provisions has been included in signed legislation.
Florida amended its regulations to clarify that prescription animal foods are exempt from sales tax.
Maine’s changes to its veterinary practice act allow for approval of a veterinarian licensed in another state to practice for up to 30 days without a state license or permit.
Iowa, Maine and Utah passed measures to clarify a veterinarian’s ability to join a partnership or a professional corporation to provide veterinary medicine services, including with non-veterinarians.
Oregon now requires veterinary facilities to register with the state’s Veterinary Medical Examining Board.
The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners adopted an amendment to allow veterinarians to withhold copies of patient medical records until the requesting client pays a reasonable fee.
A federal court of appeals found that Texas’ requirement that veterinarians must conduct a physical examination of an animal or its premises before they can practice veterinary medicine with respect to that animal does not violate the U.S. Constitution. The rule, similar to that found in the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act, states that a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) may not be established solely by telephone or electronic means.
Maine joined the list of states where veterinary medicine must occur within an established VCPR. The legislation also protects the ability of a veterinarian who in good faith renders or attempts to render emergency care to a patient when a client cannot be identified and a VCPR is not established.
Amended Texas rules permit a veterinarian to refill a prescription written by another veterinarian as long as the two veterinarians are within the same practice and have access to current medical records.
Texas legislation exempts from the VCPR requirement a veterinarian who is employed by a county or municipality, or is involved in the administration of rabies vaccines as part of a local rabies control program.
For a comprehensive review of the bills and regulations tracked by the AVMA so far this session, please see the 2015 Mid-Year Report.