State Legislative Update
Prepared by Department of State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs
AVMA Communications Division
May 15, 2014
Vermont Governor Signs Veterinary Dentistry Bill
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law HB 347 on May 2. This legislation includes in the definition of the practice of veterinary medicine “performing a dental operation on an animal” except for use of cotton swabs, gauze, dental floss, dentifrice, toothbrushes or similar items to clean an animal’s teeth. Power-assisted filing or power-assisted floating, or other procedures that invade the soft tissue of the mouth, are considered the practice of veterinary medicine under the legislation. The new law was passed so that dental procedures that can cause potential harm and pain to animals are performed by trained veterinarians and their staff who have the equipment and sedation necessary for the health and safety of their animals.
Other newly signed bills of interest around the country include:
- Arizona HB 2205 addresses licensure of veterinary faculty members and temporary permits to veterinarians licensed in other states who enter the state to provide voluntary services during a state of emergency.
- Georgia SB 290 revises the dangerous dog law and adds to the definition of sterilization in shelters intratesticular injection approved by the federal government.
- Iowa SF 2118 allows a court to include in a temporary order of domestic protection pets or companion animals whose welfare may be at risk.
- Maryland SB 659, SB 660 and HB 667 prohibit a person from: 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. There are exemptions for veterinarians using anesthesia under specified circumstances.
- Maryland SB 827 alters the list of entities and individuals that may offer for sale, trade or barter, or possess, breed or exchange specified dangerous or wild animals. The list includes veterinarians who treat animals in accordance with customary and normal veterinary practices.
- Vermont HB 112 makes the state the first to require the labeling of genetically modified foods. Food offered for retail sale that is entirely or partially produced with genetic engineering must be labeled as such by July 2016.
The Delaware Division of Professional Regulation made several changes in its controlled substances rules, including a requirement that before dispensing any controlled substance, the patient must be advised that the prescription may be filled in the practitioner's office or any pharmacy. The revised rules state that compounding of a controlled substance by a veterinarian is permitted as long as the United States Pharmacopoeia standards and guidelines are met.
The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners approved several amendments to rules governing activities of licensed veterinary technicians and equine dental providers, including new supervision guidelines and changes in continuing education requirements.
Massachusetts’ highest court ruled unanimously that police can legally enter private property without a search warrant to rescue endangered animals, similar to the authority frequently used by police to save people’s lives. Some reasonable evidence that the animal is actually in physical danger is required, consistent with decisions reached in several other states. Animal advocacy groups cheered the ruling, and Cheryl Rudolph, president of the Animal Control Officers of Massachusetts, said that her members will no longer have to engage in the time-consuming effort to obtain a search warrant when an animal’s life hangs in the balance. The defendant’s attorney warned that the ruling is not limited to domesticated animals and could lead to police claiming concern about an ant farm or a goldfish to bypass privacy rights. The defendant was prosecuted for three counts of animal cruelty after police found two dead dogs and an emaciated dog, all still chained, in the backyard of his residence.
The Oregon Court of Appeals issued a very different type of decision a few days later. It overturned the conviction of a woman found guilty of starving her dog, based on evidence from a veterinarian who tested and treated the animal without a warrant. In reversing the 2011 misdemeanor conviction, a three-judge panel ruled that animals are living beings but are also property under the law, a status that is subordinate to their owners’ constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Acting on a tip from an informant, an animal cruelty investigator went to the defendant’s apartment, determined that a “strong possibility” existed that the dog needed medical care and brought the dog to a veterinarian. While the appeals court ruled that the investigator had probable cause to seize the dog, the veterinarian’s “search” of the dog violated the defendant’s privacy rights because authorities did not obtain a warrant.