Are shelters offering a growing menu of veterinary services providing a valuable service to underserved communities or competing unfairly with private veterinary practices that don’t have access to the same level of funding and tax breaks? This hotly-debated issue is increasingly making its way to state legislators this year. As I write this article, several states are considering putting limits on what shelters can offer in their facilities or at a minimum, requiring additional regulatory oversight for these facilities.
Two bills are pending in Alabama on this general topic. HB 93 would require an animal shelter owner, operator, manager, or director to compile and make available to the public a monthly report detailing the number of animals that have entered the facility or organization and the disposition of the animals.
Alabama HB 141 would prohibit anyone who is not a licensed veterinarian from directly supervising veterinary medical services or making certain decisions relating to medical or surgical treatment of animals. The legislation calls for including a “spay-neuter clinic” under the definition of a veterinary facility, and limit the scope of services offered at such a clinic. For example, services would be limited to spay and neuters, and one-year rabies vaccinations and treatment of intestinal and external parasites administered only at the time of the surgery. A patient would not be allowed on the premises for more than 36 hours.
In South Carolina, S 194 and H 3492 were introduced last year with the goal of establishing regulations and restrictions on animal shelters, including veterinary examinations, a choice for pet owners to decide who shall provide veterinary services, and restrictions on procedures other than sterilization.
The AVMA will monitor these pieces of legislation carefully, and as needed, assist the VMAs with background, drafting and advocacy.
For developments on this and other state legislative topics, check our monthly updates at https://www.avma.org/advocacy/stateandlocal/pages/state-legislative-updates.aspx.