AVMA updates model practice act

Delegates also act on rabies vaccine waivers, abuse reports
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Recent revisions to the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act will help Wyoming develop standards on veterinary technician certification and supervision, Dr. Gary W. Norwood said.

The Wyoming Board of Veterinary Medicine and Wyoming VMA struggled in a December 2010 meeting to define the jobs and qualifications of veterinary technicians and veterinary technologists within the state's veterinary medical practice act, Dr. Norwood said. He is a member of the Wyoming VMA's Executive Board and is Wyoming's alternate delegate to the AVMA House of Delegates, which voted in January to approve a resolution implementing a series of revisions to the AVMA's Model Veterinary Practice Act. Some of the revisions address the AVMA's views of veterinary boards' authority over veterinary technicians and the credentials needed for such technicians.

Dr. Pirtle
Dr. H. Winston Pirtle, alternate delegate from Alabama, encouraged delegates to delay acting on changes to the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act until after evaluating changes to the definition of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship. (Photos by Malinda Larkin)

The AVMA Executive Board also voted in favor of the changes this past November.

The model act revisions expand the definition of "animal" to include invertebrates and all vertebrates other than humans; clarify the definitions of "direct supervision" and "indirect supervision"; expand the term "patient" to include a group of animals; define complementary, alternative, and integrative therapies as those differing from conventional medicine rather than from current scientific knowledge and veterinary college instruction; and add prognosis of animal disease under the definition of the practice of veterinary medicine. The model act also encourages allowing veterinarians and technicians licensed in one state to practice in another when invited in response to emergencies, letting those working under veterinarian supervision to provide some care at animal shelters, and allowing some disclosure of client and patient information to third parties.

Delegates also voted during the meeting to approve two other resolutions that encourage states to accept a waiver when rabies vaccination could threaten an animal's life and to encourage prompt reporting of animal abuse and neglect.

The three resolutions considered by the House of Delegates passed with about 80 percent of votes in favor of each measure.

The House of Delegates session was part of the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference, which includes AVMA entity meetings and continuing education on topics such as business operations and advocacy.

Defining the relationship

Prior to passing the model practice act changes, delegates debated whether the text was complete.

Dr. Billy Martindale, the delegate for Texas, proposed delaying updates to the Model Veterinary Practice Act until the body was able to consider an AVMA task force's then-pending recommendations on updates to the definition of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship. After the HOD meeting, proposed changes were published at avma.org/issues/policy/mvpa.asp, where members and allied organizations could provide comments until March 1.

In the proposed update to the VCPR, the word "patient" would replace instances of the word "animal," reflecting a change made elsewhere in the Model Veterinary Practice Act that defines a patient as a single animal or a group. Other changes would describe examinations needed to establish a diagnosis, and conditions for treatment of a patient by a second veterinarian.

Dr. H. Winston Pirtle, alternate delegate from Alabama, also encouraged fellow delegates to delay enacting the MVPA updates. He said the MVPA language has repercussions for the practice of veterinary medicine, and the House of Delegates must be able to say the model is the body's recommendation.

Dr. Chadima
Dr. Susan B. Chadima, delegate of Maine, encouraged delegates to implement changes to the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act, which she said is a resource that can be used during further consideration of proposed changes to the definition of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.

Dr. Susan B. Chadima, delegate from Maine and a member of the task force that examined the Model Veterinary Practice Act, urged colleagues not to refer the model back to the task force for further development during evaluation of the VCPR definition.

The model act is a resource for every state, veterinary association, and state board to use and modify as it needs in reviewing or updating veterinary practice acts, Dr. Chadima said.

Joseph M. Esch, delegate from the Student AVMA, said the changes in the MVPA should be made available as soon as possible to states that need guidance as they edit their practice acts. He expressed doubt any state legislature would implement all of the changes in the model veterinary practice act before the AVMA finished evaluating changes to the VCPR definition. He also noted that the previous VCPR definition would remain in place until then.

Dr. Norwood also had spoken in favor of the House of Delegates approving the document.

"In my view, the practice act is always a fluid document that will be in constant flux and change for the rest of our lives," Dr. Norwood said. "So, as long as we, on a national level, can keep a model practice act tuned as sharply as we can but know that it's always going to change, then we have that in front of our states."

Advocating for rules on health, welfare

The House of Delegates also established the AVMA policy "Annual Rabies Vaccination Waiver." The policy indicates waivers should be issued in limited circumstances, and it recognizes that vaccination is critical to protecting public and animal health.

"However, AVMA recognizes that some individual animals may have experienced a severe life-threatening adverse event to a previous rabies vaccination that may contraindicate vaccination, or a waiver might be necessary for research purposes," the policy states in part. "AVMA recognizes some animals might require a waiver from rabies vaccination because the vaccination poses an unacceptably high risk to the health of the individual animal, or a waiver might be necessary for research purposes."

Changes to the AVMA policy "Animal Abuse and Animal Neglect" clarify that veterinarians should promptly report any animal abuse or neglect they observe. Background information given to delegates states that the Animal Welfare Committee was contacted by participants in an industry-supported farm animal care initiative, who had asked the committee to consider adding explicit statements about the need for prompt reporting. The statement was particularly desired in response to secretly recorded video that has appeared to show abuse that was not immediately reported.

The recently revised AVMA policy "Model Veterinary Practice Act," the new policy "Annual Rabies Vaccination Waiver," and the updated policy "Animal Abuse and Animal Neglect are available here.

Correction: An earlier version of this article inaccurately quoted part of the new AVMA policy "Annual Rabies Vaccination Waiver." The article inadvertently quoted from a draft that was subsequently amended by the House of Delegates prior to approval of the policy.