AVMA State Legislative Update
This issue of the State Legislative Update includes select summaries of bills and regulations introduced in January and tracked by the AVMA Division of State Advocacy. With a majority of state legislatures convening this month, we expect considerable activity in the weeks ahead.
State policymakers continue to propose legislation in attempts to answer questions that have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic. Connecticut CT SB 560 would establish a task force to study the feasibility of using scent dogs to identify persons who are positive with a transmissible virus, including COVID-19. While recent guidance issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says that employers may, under certain conditions, bar employees from the workplace if they refuse to get a vaccine, legislation in North Dakota (ND HB 1320). Washington (WA HB 1065) would have prohibited a mandate that an individual receive a vaccination as a condition for entry, education, employment, or to receive services, but the bill didn’t pass out of committee.
Emergency medical services
Several state legislatures are considering bills that would allow emergency medical services personnel or first responders to provide basic first aid for an animal in an emergency. In Arkansas (AR HB 1152), Connecticut (CT HB 5569), and Rhode Island (RI HB 5165), provisions specifically pertain to care of police dogs injured in the line of duty. Illinois IL HB 17 would allow emergency medical personnel to provide pre-veterinary emergency care to a dog or cat to the extent the EMS personnel has received commensurate training and is authorized by their employer. While New York S 2783 would authorize emergency medical care personnel to provide basic first aid to dogs and cats, the bill would also provide immunity for any licensed veterinarian who provides off-site instruction to any certified first responder from liability for damages for injuries or death alleged to have been sustained by any dog or cat as a result of such instruction where the veterinarian acted reasonably and in good faith.
Licensure and state boards of veterinary medicine
Legislation in Minnesota (HF 208/SF 73) would establish a Companion Animal Board with primary authority for regulating companion animals in the state. The stated purpose of the new board would be to protect and promote the welfare, social well-being, and physical and mental health of companion animals.
Several bills being considered in Iowa (HF 132, HF 133, SF 163) would address continuing education requirements. Iowa HF 132 would prohibit the licensing board from limiting the number of continuing education credits that could be obtained remotely. Iowa HF 133 and Iowa SF 163 would allow additional time for licensees to complete continuing education requirements.
In Washington, WA HB 1399 would prohibit a licensing authority from refusing a license, certificate of authority, or qualification to engage in the practice of any profession or business solely based on the applicant’s criminal history. Minnesota’s MN HF 266 would abolish occupational licensing in Minnesota and stop enforcement of any statute, session law, or administrative rule that relates to an occupational licensing requirement.
Livestock confinement standards
Bills to amend enclosure requirements for egg-laying hens have been introduced in Arizona and Hawaii. AZ HB 2525 would exempt producers that have fewer than 3,000 egg-laying hens while HI SB 346 / HI HB 538 would provide exceptions for medical research, exams, treatment or veterinary purposes. Meanwhile in New York, NY A 475 would prohibit an egg-laying hen from being kept for all or a majority of any day in a manner that prevents it from lying down, standing up and fully extending its limbs, and turning around freely. NY A 475 would also prohibit pregnant pigs from being tethered or confined, and calves from being raised for veal.
The issue of compensation for damages continues to arise in a number of states. Non-economic damages would be permitted and capped at $30,000 if Massachusetts MA SD 210 were to pass. A negligent death of a cat or dog would allow a pet owner to seek damages for the loss of comfort, protection, companionship, and services of the deceased animal. Legislation in Maryland (MD SB 292) would not include compensation for non-economic damages but would increase the maximum amount of compensatory damages that could be awarded to an owner of a pet from a person who tortuously caused an injury to or death of the pet to $25,000. Meanwhile, New York’s NY A 3732 would allow the court to consider evidence regarding the bond between the companion animal and the companion animal’s owner when providing for compensation of an owner for the unjustifiable injury or death of a companion animal.
Prescribing & Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)
Connecticut CT HB 5137 would require the Connecticut Board of Veterinary Medicine to promulgate regulations to limit, monitor and track the dispensing and administration of opioid drugs for pets.
Legislation was also reintroduced in New York (NY S 2871, NY S 3115) that would restrict the use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals. New York NY S 2871 would additionally require a veterinarian who prescribes medically important antimicrobials to livestock or writes a Veterinary Feed Directive to file an annual report detailing their prescribing practices.
Legislation pertaining to rabies vaccination isn’t new but bills that would allow results from an antibody titer test to be used in lieu of vaccination remain a concern for the AVMA. Arizona AZ SB 1353 would allow a licensed veterinarian to administer a rabies antibody titer to determine whether to administer a rabies booster to a dog. New Hampshire NH HB 387 would require a rabies antibody test to be done 30 days after initial vaccination for dogs to confirm immunity and a licensed veterinarian to determine what action should be taken depending on the results of the titer test.
Scope of practice
Illinois IL HB 337 would allow state-licensed chiropractic physicians who are certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association to perform chiropractic care on animals without being under the supervision of a veterinarian. Licensed chiropractors certified by the American Chiropractic Association are already allowed to perform chiropractic care on animals in Arkansas, but AR HB 1268 would allow certification of chiropractors by the equivalent of the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association.
Arizona’s AZ HB 2626 would allow a veterinarian to perform declawing of a cat only if the procedure was for a therapeutic purpose while Connecticut CT HB 5512 would prohibit the practice of declawing cats. New York is the only state with a statewide ban on declawing of cats; the state is now considering legislation (NY A 2012/NY S 1125) that would ban the devocalization of dog and cats.
Veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) & telemedicine
With the practice of social distancing being so prominent, telemedicine and telehealth have become a point of focus across the nation. Two state legislatures—Arizona (AZ HB 2454) and Indiana (IN SB 3/IN HB 1347, IN HB 1286, IN HB 228)—are considering telehealth bills that would allow for expanded use of telehealth services by health care providers, including veterinarians. Some of the provisions are specific to human health care so amendments will occur as the bills move through the legislative process.
Arkansas’s AR HB 1099 would authorize the Veterinary Medical Examining Board to promulgate rules outlining the use of telehealth and telemedicine in veterinary practice. In Connecticut, CT HB 5395 would allow veterinarians to provide telehealth services as well as establish standards regarding a veterinarian-client-patient relationship in the context of providing such services. Oklahoma is again considering legislation (OK HB 2685/OK SB 270) that would amend the definition of telemedicine to include “telehealth” and require a veterinarian to be licensed in the jurisdiction where the patient is located at the time telehealth technologies are used.
With states looking to expand both telemedicine/telehealth in human health care and veterinary medicine, bills are being closely monitored and analyzed for the potential impact they could have on the profession.
AVMA’s telehealth resources:
- Veterinary telehealth: The basics
- AVMA’s guidelines to support telehealth use by veterinarians/veterinary practices
Veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants
Legislation in Montana (MT SB 106) would establish license and qualifications for veterinary technicians while Iowa’s IA SSB 1121 would provide for the certification of veterinary assistants to perform duties while acting under a veterinarian’s direct supervision.
A comprehensive report of legislative and regulatory activity relating to veterinary medicine in 2020 can be viewed here.
Article prepared by AVMA Governmental Relations Division
Posted February 19, 2021