DEA acknowledges veterinarians’ ability to practice across state lines

Protecting access to critical drugsWith President Barack Obama’s signing of the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act in 2014, it became legal for veterinarians to carry controlled substances across state lines to provide complete medical care to patients outside their clinics.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration dotted the final “i” on the legislation recently, formally acknowledging its provisions in a letter to practitioners who are registered with the DEA to dispense controlled substances.

The 2014 legislation resulted from a concerted effort by the AVMA, our members and allied organizations. The Feb. 25 letter quotes the new law’s provision that a veterinarian “shall not be required to have a separate registration in order to transport and dispense controlled substances in the usual course of a veterinary practice at a site other than the registrant’s registered principal place of business or professional practice, so long as the site of transporting and dispensing is located in a state where the veterinarian is licensed to practice veterinary medicine and is not a principal place of business or professional practice.”

“A prime example is that a veterinarian may dispense controlled substances while making ‘house calls’ (e.g., at a stable) without being registered at that location,” according to the letter. “And, in such a scenario, the veterinarian does not need to be registered with the DEA in the state where the dispensing occurs, as long as the veterinarian is registered in some other state and is licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the state where the dispensing occurs.”

The letter was sent to all DEA registrants, as well as DEA field offices and diversion investigators, following discussions between DEA officials and AVMA staff.

19 thoughts on “DEA acknowledges veterinarians’ ability to practice across state lines

  1. Re: practicing on Indian Reservations. I started doing this well over 25 years ago. My understanding is that as long as you are physically on Federal land (Reservations), you can practice. You cannot go and practice in locations or towns around the Reservation without a license for the State that you would be in.

    As an additional point of information, when working in foreign countries, most will honor your US license. However there are some smaller areas, especially tourist islands, where the local Veterinary organization may put you through the ropes before you can volunteer, even in those poor areas they do not service.

  2. as a small animal mobile practice i am grateful to be allowed to provide for my patients legally. i did not, however, receive any letter from the DEA despite having been registered for almost 4 decades.

  3. Does anyone know if a vet needs a license in each state s/he is practicing in if it’s on an Indian Reservation? Many of us volunteer for spay/neuter clinics outside the state we are licensed to practice, but on a reservation. Thank you.

    • Good question. I’ll send it to our GRD folks. They might need to investigate this and get back to you.

      • Here’s the response: Technically, you can’t drive through a state while carrying controlled substances – even without stopping or practicing – without being licensed. So the issue could be in how you actually transport the controlled substances to have them for use on the tribal lands (this is assuming you have authority to use them on the tribal lands).

        If you want to talk directly with Dr. Shelton-Morgan about this, feel free to email her at [remove spaces first] a morgan @

  4. This is wonderful but just a comment from someone who sold my practice and am now doing relief work. When I renew my DEA license I have to have an actual clinic address for the registration and can’t use my home address. I guess I could understand this a little better if I was actually ORDERING and RECEIVING controlled drugs but I don’t. I use the controlled drugs provided by the clinic I work at and we just sign a power of attorney between us. Problem is that when I get mail from the DEA regarding my renewal or anything else, it will sit at the clinic’s address that I use until I work there again which may be 1-2 months. Why can we not get them to allow us to use our home address and just require that any drugs we order be shipped to an actual clinic. Any way AVMA can help with that?

    • I checked with our GRD folks, and they say that using a home address was never, and is not, illegal. Use your home address for your registration (and change it to your home address if it’s not currently) ; if you receive pushback from the registration person, let us know and we’ll notify DEA HQ, who tells the registration technician they’re wrong.

      • I currently work as a relief veterinarian and I attempted to register for my license as my home address. I was contacted by the technician that I would need to use a veterinary clinic and it was necessary in order for me to continue, despite the fact that I do not work at any location full-time. I just obtain my license in December of this past year so this was a pretty recent event.

        • That’s frustrating, for sure. Bethea (and Lori, if you encounter the same thing), please send an email to Dr. Ashley Shelton-Morgan at [remove the spaces to get email address] a morgan @ with your contact information so she can follow up with you.

      • I am also a relief veterinarian working in multiple states. Is there any chance the DEA can let us have just one license to order, use and dispense controlled drugs? It’s rather expensive to maintain multiple federal licenses for the same activity. I understand the multiple state licenses is based on local control. Just a thought.

        • This is our understanding, but if you’ve encountered issues, perhaps it’s best that you talk to Dr. Shelton-Morgan and she can investigate further.

          If a relief veterinarian needs their own DEA number (for example, some states require all practitioners to have their own number, or if they want to be able to actually prescribe), they can use their home address and ‘use’ that number in each state they are licensed (so long as they are transporting CS through states where they are not licensed or storing inventory in other locations). Most relief veterinarians are using inventory at the clinic where they are working; that inventory belongs to the registrant at that location and the relief veterinarian is essentially an ‘authorized agent’ when using that inventory. They would use their own DEA number to prescribe while working in those clinics, but the inventory remains that of the registrant to which it belongs.

  5. I am assuming the veterinarian still needs to be licensed in the state. Crossing state line but not having a license to practice veterinary medicine in the new state would make this illegal, yes?

  6. Our vet is an hour from our house anyway, as we live very rural. Our last horse is 20+ and hardly has any teeth. I was worried that instead of having our vet put him down when he colics or whatever happens in his old age , we would have to shoot him in lieu of having our vet end his life peacefully :-( Thank God our horse will not have to suffer now.

  7. How generous of our masters to allow us to do our jobs. We should never have been subject to these absurd restrictions in the first place.

  8. Bravo Mark, Ashley, Gina and all AVMA GRD staff and volunteers, and every member who assisted them in getting this done. Bravo!

    • It is not comforting that governmental agencies like the DEA are not aware of the ambulatory nature of most large animal veterinary practices in America. This aspect of practice has changed primarily due to the number of veterinarians in the field today and the remarkable increase in the technical advances that are utilized daily. The image of an equine veterinary ambulatory practitioner in 2016 is fundamentally similar to that of 1966!!!! The daily use of controlled substances has not changed other then the improved recording of activities with computers. Where was the EPA during that time?????