Delegates tackle timely issues in veterinary medicine

Published on July 24, 2017
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The times indeed are a changin’, and the 2017 House of Delegates meeting held at the AVMA Annual Convention certainly reflected that reality.

From marijuana therapies for pets, to telehealth, the opioid epidemic and the use of service and assistance animals, discussions held and actions taken at the meeting are representative of the changing – and perhaps challenging – times in which we live.

Each of these topics and more was addressed during the HOD’s Veterinary Information Forum (VIF), and the HOD’s efforts to address them are examples of how your AVMA continues to represent the interests of all veterinarians in this diverse profession.HOD-2017-Summer

The VIF, now in its second year, is an open discussion in which AVMA HOD members address high-profile issues of significant importance to AVMA member veterinarians. The VIF topics are chosen with input from AVMA members, and the forum provides for sharing ideas and rapid response to issues if needed. If you have ideas for discussion topics for the next VIF, which will be held at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference in January, please reach out to your delegates by visiting the HOD Directory on our website.

Marijuana therapies

This year’s topics included the growing interest in marijuana therapies for pets. As the use of medicinal marijuana products continues to grow in the realm of human medicine, more and more pet owners are wondering if their animals might benefit from similar therapies. In response to the discussions held during the HOD meeting, delegates agreed to recommend to the AVMA Board of Directors that the association consider creating and disseminating informational pieces on:

  • The current legal status of cannabis as it applies to veterinary practitioners
  • Unified definitions of cannabis and its derivatives
  • The current research available, and
  • The signs, symptoms and treatment of cannabis toxicosis in animals for both practitioners and clients

The HOD also recommended that the AVMA investigate working with other research organizations and medical stakeholders to attempt to reclassify cannabis from a Schedule 1 drug to a Schedule 2 drug to facilitate research opportunities for veterinary and human medical uses.


Delegates also approved a new AVMA Policy on Telemedicine and a revised Model Veterinary Practice Act to help begin to address advances in technology that are leading to more people seeking remote delivery of  health information and education for themselves and for their animals.

The AVMA is committed to ensuring access to the convenience and benefits afforded by telemedicine, while promoting the responsible provision of high-quality veterinary medical care.

Given the current state of technological capabilities, available research and the current regulatory landscape, the AVMA believes that veterinary telemedicine should only be conducted within an existing Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR), with the exception for advice given in an emergency until that patient can be seen by a veterinarian.

Without a VCPR, any advice provided through electronic means should be general and not specific to a patient, diagnosis or treatment. We also recognize that future policy in this area needs to be informed by evidence-based research on the impact of telemedicine on access to care and patient safety.

Opioids and prescription monitoring programs

We’re all aware of the nation’s growing opioid epidemic, and more states are looking to require more veterinarians to participate in prescription drug monitoring programs. In an effort to better understand the issue and to better educate our members and others about the veterinarians’ role in opioid prescribing, the HOD recommended that the AVMA develop model language related to:

  • Information on how to positively interact with state boards of pharmacy
  • Recommendations for reporting that are practical, reasonable and realistic
  • Development of appropriate reporting software
  • Methods of permanent identification for animals
  • Veterinarians’ responsibility in monitoring, and
  • Continuing education for veterinarians, such as best prescribing practices and identifying diversion and abuse

Service and assistance animals

The AVMA has been actively researching the role of service, emotional support and therapy animals over the course of the last two years. We’ve developed policies and drafted a white paper titled “Assistance Animals: Rights of Access and the Problem of Fraud.”

Given recent concerns specifically about service animal fraud raised by AVMA members, the AVMA HOD approved a policy expected to serve as a foundation for further educational and advocacy efforts that will promote appropriate use of service, emotional support and therapy animals, and discourage misunderstandings or fraudulent activities.

The HOD also recommended the following:

  • That the AVMA create educational materials on service and assistance animals for the public, veterinarians, businesses and human medical professionals
  • That the AVMA advocate for unified definitions for service, assistance and emotional support animals
  • That the AVMA Steering Committee on Human-Animal Interactions create a working group, that includes human healthcare providers, to develop communication materials in support of the exchange of information between human healthcare providers and veterinarians

Bylaws amendments and resolutions

The HOD also approved the following during its regular meeting session:

  • Bylaws Amendment 2: Student Chapters of the AVMA
  • Bylaws Amendment 3: Constituent Allied Veterinary Organizations
  • Resolution 4: Therapeutic Use of Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine
  • Resolution 6: The Importance of Federal Veterinarians in Emergency Response
  • Resolution 7: The Importance of Federal Veterinarians in Food Safety (Also coming out of the VIF was a recommendation that the AVMA include information about careers in public veterinary practice, specifically the federal government and the Food Safety and Inspection Service, when making presentations to veterinary students and veterinarians in other career stages.)
  • Resolution 8: Handling of Companion Animal Remains
  • Resolution 9: Revised Policy on End-of-Life Care


Delegate James Brett from Mississippi was elected to the HOD House Advisory Committee.

The HOD also voted to elect the following AVMA members to AVMA councils:

  • Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents: Dr. Bruce Coston, Dr. Brian Lubbers, Dr. Brad Tanner
  • Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary  Medicine: Dr. Allan Drusys, Dr. Patricia McKane, Dr. Christopher Olsen, Dr. Misha Robyn
  • Council on Research: Dr. Alicia Bertone
  • Council on Veterinary Service: Dr. Duane Colmey, Dr. Manuel Himenes, Dr. Robert Sager
  • Judicial Council: Dr. George Cuellar

Thanks for your service

The HOD also recognized retiring members who amassed a combined 91 years of service! They are:

  • Dr. Michael Bailey from the Pennsylvania VMA
  • Dr. Mark Cox from the Texas VMA
  • Dr. Michael Gilsdorf from the National Association of Federal Veterinarians
  • Dr. Richard Godine from the Virginia VMA
  • Dr. Arnold Goldman from the Connecticut VMA
  • Dr. Elizabeth Hardie from the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians
  • Dr. Jeffrey Harker from the American Association of Swine Veterinarians
  • Dr. Cynthia MacKenzie from the American Association of Equine Practitioners
  • Dr. Vern Otte from the Kansas VMA
  • Dr. Courtney Rebensdorf from the Rhode Island VMA
  • Dr. Steven Strubberg from the Missouri VMA
  • Dr. Robert Thompson from the Delaware VMA


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