Schaumburg, Ill. - Hundreds of veterinary-related bills proposing everything from licensure tweaks to insurance mandates have the profession's watchdogs monitoring legislative introductions at a frantic pace.
SCHAUMBURG, ILL. — Hundreds of veterinary-related bills proposing everything from licensure tweaks to insurance mandates have the profession's watchdogs monitoring legislative introductions at a frantic pace.
It's rush hour within state legislatures and regulatory offices, insiders say. When it comes to new legislation, the first three months of the year are ripe with initiatives, and 2007 is no different, says Adrian Hochstadt, JD, CAE, assistant director of the American Veterinary Medical Association's State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs.
At presstime, AVMA offices issued 453 alerts to state veterinary medical associations, highlighting proposed laws and regulatory initiatives with a link to veterinary medicine. This year's state assemblies with the most activity include New York, Kentucky, Oklahoma and New Jersey, dusting traditional activity hubs like California and Texas.
"There are so many bills, we can't even count them all," Hochstadt says. "By spring, we should be able to shake the dust and see where everything's falling. It's almost too early to clear the smoke, and see what's really there."
Yet there are clear trends.
As usual, animal welfare bills are rampant. Arizona producers might soon be forced to grant hens extra living space and Connecticut lawmakers will mull whether to ban hen cages altogether. In Illinois, New York and New Jersey, force feeding ducks and geese sits on the chopping block for foie gras producers, and Texas plans to extend its animal cruelty laws to sheep, swine, cattle and goats.
A reintroduced Hawaii measure calls for noneconomic damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress from damage to a companion animal, while a District of Columbia bill recognizes noneconomic damages in cases where a DVM intentionally or with gross negligence kills a companion animal.
In Colorado, an initiative provides a loophole for licensed physical therapists to treat animals.
"The scope of practice is always good for a number of measures across the country," Hochstadt says.
To attract more veterinarians to rural Missouri, a bill proposes to increase its Large Animal Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program. North Dakota lawmakers are considering establishing a similar program.
Oklahoma lawmakers propose a new approach to filling the DVM need. House Bill 2052 offers a tax deduction for DVM owners with a large animal business of more than 51 percent.
Hochstadt calls it "innovative," yet Dr. Charles Helwig insists the measure needs modification.
"What we need to do is encourage students to go into these underserved rural areas," says Helwig, Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association executive director. "We've got a lot of large animal DVMs unable to get associates and sell their practices."