Senate passes Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act

Jan 20, 2014

On Jan. 9, the United States Senate passed the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act (S. 1171), sponsored by Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS). The bill was passed unanimously without amendment and has been sent to the House of Representatives where it awaits further action.

The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, introduced last year by Senators Moran and Angus King (I-ME), amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to clarify that veterinarians are allowed to transport, administer and dispense controlled substances and medications outside of their registered offices and hospitals. It would ensure veterinarians have the ability to provide mobile or ambulatory services in the field.

Passed by Congress in 1970, CSA is intended to prevent the unauthorized manufacture, sale, and transport of drugs likely to be abused. Under current law, veterinarians who carry drugs to farm calls or in mobile veterinary units could be found in violation of the act.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently changed its interpretation of provisions within the CSA regarding what veterinarians may carry with them and has stated it now believes it is illegal for veterinarians to transport controlled substances and medications for use outside of their registered locations, such as an animal hospital.

The DEA has indicated in the past that without a statutory change to the law, some veterinarians may be practicing outside the confines of the law.

This restriction DEA could impose would impact: 

• Rural and large-animal veterinarians;

• Mobile spay/neuter clinics; Animal cruelty investigations;

• Veterinarians responding to natural disasters and other emergencies;

• Ambulatory practitioners; and

• Hospice providers who offer in-home care and euthanasia.

“This bill will grant properly licensed veterinarians the right to carry and administer controlled substances, including important medications, allowing them to do their job,” King said.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) said the act will enable veterinarians to more easily perform lifesaving services for animals in crisis.

“Mobile veterinarians perform much of their work in irregular and unpredictable locations,” said Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASP- CA Government Relations. “Mobile spay/neuter and vaccination clinics, disaster responses, and animal cruelty investigations necessitate travel to remote and underserved communities. We thank the Senate for ensuring that mobile veterinarians across the nation can continue to serve their patients wherever animals need care.”

The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act must now be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is optimistic that it will.

“With nearly 150 cosponsors in the U.S. House and the nation’s only two elected veterinarians serving in Congress championing the bill, we believe the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act has a good chance of moving forward in the House of Representatives,” said Mark Lutschaunig, AVMA’s Governmental Relations Director.

Similar legislation (H.R. 1528) has been introduced in that chamber by Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Ted Yoho (R-FL), the only two veterinarians serving in the U.S. Congress. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor