State Legislative Update April 2015

April 2015  

Prepared by AVMA Department of State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs

Newly adopted laws

With several legislatures adjourning, governors signed into law a number of veterinary-related bills in recent days. These include:
  • Arizona SB 1039 prohibits compounding a drug that is commercially available. The bill was amended to exclude veterinary compounded drugs from restrictions on dispensing, shipping and distributing into another state. The amendment also specifies that a drug shortage for veterinary medications constitutes an emergency medical reason, and therefore is excluded from the regulation of wholesale distribution.
  • Idaho H 72 provides that veterinary technicians may place their certification on inactive status. The new language also lists conditions for transfer from inactive to active status for both veterinarians and veterinary technicians.
  • Nebraska LB 37 adopts various restrictions on compounding, but veterinarians are not subject to these provisions as they are not included in the definition of “practitioners” in the statute.
  • Utah HB 88 deletes from the definition of “unprofessional conduct” a veterinarian rendering professional service in association with a person who is not licensed or sharing fees with a non-veterinarian for services performed. The bill clarifies the role of non-veterinarians in veterinary corporations, veterinary limited liability companies and veterinary partnerships.
  • Utah HB 261 addresses horse tripping, including horse event reporting requirements, educational requirements and a mandated report to the legislature about reported incidents.
  • Virginia SB 1081 prohibits a person from roping, lassoing, or otherwise obstructing or interfering with one or more legs of an equine in order to intentionally cause it to trip or fall in a rodeo, contest, exhibition, entertainment, or sport, unless such actions fall within the practice of accepted animal husbandry or allowing veterinary care.
  • Virginia SB 1001 prohibits the sale of dogs and cats on a roadside, public right-of-way, parkway, median, park or recreation area. The new law also requires 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 citations for violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Vetoed measures

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed HB 2150, a bill that proposed to remove livestock and poultry from the definition of “animal” in the state animal cruelty law. Opponents of the bill argued that creating differing laws for pets and livestock would lead to future weakening of protections for livestock. Supporters of the measure claimed that the distinction is needed to ensure pets can be protected without impacting animal agriculture.

Legal watch

On March 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit 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 First or Fourteenth Amendments of 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. Plaintiff Dr. Ronald Hines is a Texas-licensed veterinarian who used a website to provide veterinary advice to specific pet owners about their pets via email and telephone calls without conducting a physical examination of the patient. Dr. Hines charged a flat fee of $58 for his veterinary advice, though he would waive this fee if a pet owner could not afford to pay. At times, he refused to give advice if he felt that a physical examination was required.

The court rejected the First Amendment challenge to the Texas rule by finding that the rule does not regulate the content of any speech, require veterinarians to deliver any particular message, or restrict what can be said once a VCPR is established. Writing for the court, Justice Patrick Higginbotham explained that states have broad power to establish standards for licensing practitioners, and state regulation of a profession, even though it may have an incidental impact on speech, does not violate the Constitution. The court also upheld dismissal of Dr. Hines’ equal protection and due process claims, concluding that the physical examination requirement is rationally related to a legitimate government interest. According to the opinion, the requirement that veterinary care be provided only after the veterinarian has seen the animal is, at a minimum, rational; it is reasonable to conclude that the quality of care will be higher, and the risk of misdiagnosis and improper treatment lower, if the veterinarian physically examines the animal in question before treating it. A footnote states that while not decisive, the fact that the physical examination requirement was imposed following a change to the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act further supports the conclusion that the regulation is rational.

The plaintiff may appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. For now, the decision is expected to impede the development of Internet veterinary advice services. 

Agreement in Idaho on nonprofit, subsidized care

The Idaho Veterinary Medical Association and Idaho Humane Society (IHS) announced an agreement regarding the IHS’ ongoing role in providing veterinary care as a charitable organization in the community. Under the terms of the agreement, the IHS, based in Boise, will begin means-testing their clientele in an effort to direct their delivery of veterinary medical services to lower-income clients, those most in need of charitable care.

This agreement will have no effect on shelter animal care, pet adoptions or the spaying and neutering services currently provided to the general public by the IHS. The delivery of veterinary medical and surgical services, however, will be limited to those who qualify via means-testing. The agreement, effective in May 2015, was reached after nearly two years of discussions and negotiations involving local leaders and state legislators and heads-off potential legislative action.

The IHS agreed to encourage adopters of animals to establish a permanent relationship with a non-IHS employed veterinarian. In addition, the IHS will continue its practice of including a listing of local veterinarians in new pet adoption packets.

The link at the top or bottom of this page will take you to the latest chart of significant pending bills and regulations from around the country.