AVMA Executive Board Issues Policy to Boost States’ Authority To Control Quality of Veterinary Care

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Executive Board passed a new policy to keep local municipalities out of the business of regulating veterinary procedures, and bolstering the authority of state bodies to guide and oversee veterinary medicine.

The new AVMA policy states that: “State governments, rather than local governments, are the appropriate entities to regulate the practice of veterinary medicine, including allowing or restricting specific procedures.” It is, in part, a response to the June 2007 decision of the California Court of Appeals to allow the City of West Hollywood to ban declawing, a procedure that is authorized under the California Veterinary Medical Practice Act. As a result of West Hollywood’s actions, local veterinarians would be in violation of a city ordinance for carrying out veterinary procedures that otherwise fall within the parameters of their state-issued license. A similar conflict occurred in Virginia, where the Norfolk City Council moved to bar anybody but a veterinarian from performing “cosmetic alterations” on companion animals. The Virginia attorney general has said that the city had overstepped its authority.

“Today, it’s rare for a small municipality to place added restrictions on the type or style of veterinary care in their community, but imagine what could happen if local restrictions became common. It would completely confuse our systems for governing veterinary care across the country,” said Dr. John Scamahorn, a member of the AVMA Executive Board and chair of the State Advocacy Committee, which drafted the proposed policy. “Unfortunately, local governmental entities are not qualified to make these decisions about best veterinary practices without the input of veterinary experts.”

Today, all state legislatures regulate the practice of veterinary medicine to protect the public and animals from poor veterinary care and animal cruelty, and these laws are administered by state boards of veterinary medicine. Dr. Scamahorn said that this well established governing system is undermined if cities, villages and counties are allowed to chip away at the uniformity provided by the state legislatures and implemented by state veterinary medical boards.

For more information about the AVMA and its animal welfare activities, please visit the AVMA at www.avma.org.


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