HB 1126 vs. HB 1296


Denver, Colo. –– Veterinary medicine in Colorado is facing giant changes in regulation and oversight.

DENVER, COLO. –– Veterinary medicine in Colorado is facing giant changes in regulation and oversight.

While the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) backed one bill, it remained bitterly opposed to another. Why?

Colorado HB 1126, approved by the Senate in late March, provides for licensed physical therapists to work on animals without a veterinary license or in-room DVM supervision.

HB 1296, derailed by a 4-3 vote in the Senate Agriculture Committee, would have allowed pet owners to obtain care from unlicensed practitioners in all modalities without veterinary referral or supervision.

"They are really quite different approaches," says Ralph Johnson, CVMA executive director, noting three key differences between the two bills that determined the association's support and opposition.

Communication and collaboration

A lack of progressive and thorough communication hindered efforts to develop a bill all sides could agree on, Johnson says.

"That bill (1126) is the result of two years worth of discussion and dialogue between the various parties," Johnson says of the physical-therapy bill, while noting that HB 1296 was only in discussion between the Colorado Alliance of Animal Owner Rights (CAAOR) and CVMA since November.

The partnership that resulted in the physical-therapy bill is planned to continue through the rule-making process if the statute is implemented. "All sides will have input and hope the model we have envisioned for the regulation of interaction between the veterinarian and physical therapist will be codified in the rules," Johnson says.

Agreement over the language in HB 1296, however, could not be reached.

Consumer protection

Unlicensed practitioners, under HB 1296, would not have been governed by any regulatory agency; therefore, consumers with complaints, injured pets or problems would have nowhere to turn, Johnson contends. This is not true of physical therapists, who have an overseeing regulatory body. "We were dealing with another licensed profession, so the public has some recourse if there is harm to an animal," he says.

But the modalities meant to be encompassed by the bill are not comparable to physical therapy, counters Lisa Speaker, CAAOR president and founder.

"We're talking about maintenance work, not addressing disease or doing corrective work. It's not physical therapy. It is an entirely different thing," Speaker says.

Veterinary input

"A significant amendment that we were able to get into the bill (1126) was that, before a licensed physical therapist could perform physical therapy on an animal, there needs to be veterinary medical clearance. That continues to allow the veterinarian to be in the front of the system in a diagnostic role," Johnson says.

In HB 1296, however, CAAOR was resistant to any veterinary oversight, worrying opponents that animals might receive improper care without a formal diagnosis and treatment recommendation from a veterinarian. While the bill did include a consent form verifying animals receive regular health care, Johnson says it failed to define this level of care or ask for specific information, such as visit dates and regularity or the type of care provided.

"I just really see the need for the veterinarian to be on the front end of the health-care monitoring system," Johnson says.

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