Joint Ag Committee reviews changes to veterinary act
Buffalo – “We look at the Wyoming Veterinary Medical Practice Act as a consumer and animal protection act,” said Wyoming Board of Veterinary Medicine President Jim Summers of Lander, referring to the notion of laypeople performing auxiliary veterinary practices.
Summers, together with Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan, presented changes to the Act to the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Interim Committee at their fall meeting, held Oct. 4-5 in Buffalo.
This isn’t the first time the committee has reviewed the bill, which in the past has included controversial language allowing laypeople to be licensed for certain veterinary procedures.
“It’s been approximately two years since some of our board members indicated they’d heard some talk from legislators about auxiliary practices,” said Summers.
An earlier version of this year’s version of the Wyoming Veterinary Medical Practice Act included an outline of AI, equine dentistry, embryo transplant, massage therapy, chiropractic therapy, acupuncture and orthopedic manipulation in the definition of “practice of veterinary medicine,” which may only be performed by licensed veterinarians. However, that language was removed.
The current bill reads, “No person may practice veterinary medicine in the state who is not a licensed veterinarian or the holder of a valid temporary permit issued by the board.” It also increases penalties from $100 to $750 and up to six months in jail.
Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan said over the last 10 years Wyoming has had several situations where unlicensed heifer spayers and equine dentists have come into Wyoming.
“There have been at least three equine dentists and two heifer spayers doing what is typically considered to be veterinary medicine,” he explained. “The board sent letters of cease and desist, and some took that to heart and others persisted. We’ve not had any success getting country attorneys to prosecute them, since the fine apparently wasn’t high enough nor was it a priority issue.”
Logan added the board currently licenses AI technicians, embryo transfer and embryo transplant technicians.
“I don’t think the Vet Board had any intention to step over its bounds and stop people from legitimately doing certain services,” said Logan. “There are certain areas where livestock producers are in need of certain services that may not always be available through a veterinarian, and presently there is no way for trained laypeople to presently do those services.”
“The Vet Board had drafted a version of the Practice Act that could make those services legally available, but only under regulation of the board for consumer protection,” added Logan. “It wasn’t to legitimize people who out there practicing without a license. The intent was to bring that type of thing under regulation of the Wyoming Board of Veterinary Medicine, so those people who do qualify for permit or license can be permitted or licensed. It was not meant to detract from the practice of veterinary medicine or consumer and animal protection, but to bring those things under the regulation of the board.”
Representative Mark Semlek, committee co-chairman with Senator Gerry Geis, indicated he had expected a different type of bill to come before the committee than the one reviewed at the meeting.
“Two years ago there was a bill before the House Ag Committee, with respect to preg testing, and we heard the discussion and there was a great debate and the point on both sides was well taken. We gave it thoughtful consideration, and at the end of the process the committee voted not to allow that to occur.
“What I expected was that there would perhaps be some thoughtful consideration given, and that if we are going to allow it, there ought to be something in place, as with AI, to provide instruction through the vet tech program at Torrington or some other certification or process. We’re not sure what you’re proposing. I think the expectation was something like that would happen.”
“Wording was included to include vet technicians in the act,” said veterinarian Malcolm Blessing of Cody. “I believe vet techs should be the first ancillary vet care professional sanctioned by the act. We have a school of technology in Torrington, and we’re graduating technicians, but not licensing them in Wyoming. I think it’s a travesty we’re sending them to other states because they can’t be licensed to practice with a vet. I think that should be included in the act.”
“I’ve heard from those utilizing the services of people doing these services, and a common theme is that they are really specialized, doing one thing all the time and providing a good service. I think there’s a way to meld these objectives, where producers get the services they need with some kind of a tech system that protects the consumer and producer,” said Representative Sue Wallis.
A group of Wyoming’s veterinarians attended to meeting to share their perspectives with the legislators, including a veterinarian from Sheridan. “We have incentives for veterinarians to come back and work in areas, yet we’re going to let other people come in and do the work,” he commented. “There is a shortage of food animal veterinarians, and it won’t work to encourage people to go into pre-vet and go into an industry where other people can do the fields without the extent of education. I wouldn’t want to spend eight to 10 years of my life, only to have that happen.”
He added it’s also a standard of care issue. “There’s a standard of care we’ve worked to grow and build, and where does it stop? With Bangs testing? Trich testing? Health certificates? Where does it stop? We’ve worked our careers off to establish the standard of care.”
“If these alternative services will be done in Wyoming, they should be under some regulation. If we’re not going to worry about regulating, we might as well throw it open to everybody. That’s not what either the state’s veterinary profession or I want,” said Logan.
The Joint Ag Committee voted to move the bill, and it will appear first in the House of Representative in the 2011 general session beginning Jan. 11.