Bill would Protect Mobile Vet Practices from Drug Charges

Veterinarians who make farm calls to treat equines currently risk prosecution under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), but new legislation pending in the U.S. House of Representatives would amend that law to protect operators of mobile veterinary practices.

Passed by Congress in 1970 and enforced by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the CSA is intended to prevent the unauthorized manufacture, sale, and transport of drugs that are likely to be abused. Under current law, veterinarians who carry certain drugs, including those used for pain management and euthanasia, to farm calls or in mobile veterinary units could be in violation of the act.

Chris Huckleberry, deputy chief of staff for Congressman Kurt Schrader, said that in October Schrader began hearing rumors from state veterinarian associations that some of their members could be in violation of the CSA. In response, Schrader and 16 other members of Congress submitted a letter to the DEA asking the agency to clarify its policy relative to the rumors and to provide a list of drugs commonly carried by veterinarians that, under the CSA, qualify as controlled substances.

“We couldn't get that clarification from them, so Rep. Schrader wrote the legislation,” Huckleberry said.

Introduced on April 12, HR 1528—the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act of 2013—would amend the CSA to allow a veterinarian to transport and dispense controlled substances in the usual course of veterinary practice outside of their registered locations.

Keith Kleine, director of industrial relations for the American Association of Equine Practitioners, said that the legislation is crucial to veterinarians and horse owners alike, because practitioners frequently use mobile veterinary clinics to transport medications for pain management, anesthesia, or euthanasia to treat horses at sites separate from their primary offices or clinics.

“Without many of these controlled substances, horses (being treated) in an ambulatory setting would be subjected to significant delays in treatment and intervention in emergency situations,” Kleine said. “This would truly impact animal pain and suffering if these drugs could only be obtained from a remote location.”

Ashley Morgan, DVM, assistant director of the government relations division of the American Veterinary Medical Association, said that aside from veterinarians and concerned horse owners, HR 1528 is attracting the attention of other legislators as well.

“We've heard that the Senate is interested in amending the law and that there could be legislation in the Senate as early as next week,” Morgan said.

HR 1528 has been referred for review by to both the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on the Judiciary.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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