By Sharyn Cornelius

     A bill currently being considered by the State Legislature would make it illegal for anyone other than a licensed veterinarian or a technician working under the direct supervision of a veterinarian to administer any medication or treatment for the prevention, cure, or relief of a bodily injury or disease of an animal.  

     Called Senate Bill No. 697, it was introduced by Senator Negrete McLeod at the urging of the Veterinary Medical Board.  Here is what it says in part (emphasis mine):  

     SECTION 1. Section 4826 of the Business and Professions Code is amended to read: 4826. A person practices veterinary medicine, surgery, and dentistry, and the various branches thereof, when he or she does any one of the following:

      a) Represents Advertises or represents himself or herself as engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine, veterinary surgery, or veterinary dentistry in any of its branches.

      b) Diagnoses or prescribes a drug, medicine, appliance, application, or treatment of whatever nature for the prevention, cure or relief of a wound, fracture, bodily injury, or disease of animals.

     (c) Administers a drug, medicine, appliance, application, or treatment of whatever nature for the prevention, cure, or relief of a wound, fracture, bodily injury, or disease of animals, except where the medicine, appliance, application, or treatment is administered by a registered veterinary technician or an  unregistered assistant at the direction of and under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian . . .or where the drug, including, but not limited to, a drug that is a controlled substance, is administered by a registered veterinary technician or an unregistered assistant . . .     

     (d) Performs a surgical or dental operation upon an animal.

     (e) Performs any manual procedure for the diagnosis of pregnancy, sterility, or infertility upon livestock or Equidae.

     We were alerted to this bill by Palomino Armstrong of Shingletown who received an email about it from a friend who operates a grooming parlor called Canine Care.  According to that email, the primary target of the legislation is groomers who perform simple, manual teeth cleaning procedures without the use of anesthesia, which is much safer for gentle animals who will allow it. 

     While this may be true, SB 697 as written would also make it illegal for all animal owners including those who raise livestock from 1) administering vaccinations and medications ordered by mail (some at much lower cost than they can be purchased from a veterinarian) or 2) diagnosing and treating minor injuries or conditions (such as hoof abscesses in horses or hot spots in dogs) without consulting a veterinarian. 

     As Armstrong pointed out, if this bill had been in effect when she rescued Honey Bandit, the foal whose dam had stopped lactating at the BLM facility near Susanville causing him to nearly starve to death, much of the treatment she provided to him at her home, such as antibiotic injections and intravenous hydration, would have been illegal, because it was not performed under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.  And if she had had to leave the foal at the veterinary clinic for all his treatment, the costs would have been prohibitive. 

     SB 697 is currently under scrutiny in the Senate Committee for Business, Professions, and Economic Development; and according to both Senator Doug LaMalfa’s aide Brenda Haynes (whom we contacted) and Armstrong (who spent two days in Sacramento lobbying against it), it is being revised.   But until the revision is complete, we will not know if the section that would make it illegal for owners to diagnose and treat their own animals has been changed for the better. 

     For those who would like to let their legislators know they are concerned about SB 697, the chairman of the Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee is Senator Curren Price and the vice chair is Senator Bill Emmerson.  The phone number for the committee staff is (916)651-4104.  The phone number for the office of Senator Doug LaMalfa, who represents District 4, is 916-651-4004.