The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) applauds U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Angus King (I-Maine) for introducing legislation yesterday that would correct a restriction in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) which prevents veterinarians from transporting or using controlled substances outside of their registered places of business. The new Senate bill (S. 950) is a companion to the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act of 2013 (H.R. 1528), which U.S. Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), both veterinarians, introduced in the U.S. House on April 12. Both pieces of legislation will make it legal for veterinarians to transport and dispense medications used for pain management, anesthesia and euthanasia that they need to properly care for animal patients in various settings.
“As Senators Moran and King know, each state within our union presents a variety of habitats for animals of all shapes and sizes to live and roam,” said AVMA President Dr. Douglas G. Aspros. “Without the ability for veterinarians to be mobile and treat their animal patients wherever they need to, veterinarians are unable to provide complete care and their animal patients may suffer. Veterinarians must be able to transport the necessary medications beyond their brick-and-mortar clinics for the health and welfare of the nation’s animals, to safeguard public safety and to protect the nation’s food supply. On behalf of the U.S. veterinary profession, we are pleased to see that now both the Senate and House have recognized the importance of amending the Controlled Substances Act and we encourage Congress to pass the legislation quickly.”
“Veterinarians play a crucial role in public safety and making certain animals in Kansas and across the country are cared for properly,” Sen. Moran said. “The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act allows licensed practitioners to legally transport and dispense the controlled substances necessary to practice veterinary medicine. This legislation is particularly important for veterinarians who work in rural areas, conduct research or respond to emergency situations.”
“Maine is one of the most rural states in the nation with veterinarians often traveling great distances to provide care to animals at farms, homes, and even animal shelters,” Sen. King said. “It’s a practice that occurs across the country, and by allowing properly licensed veterinarians the flexibility to carry and administer controlled substances like medications legally, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act helps them to better perform their jobs and provide an essential service to rural communities across America.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration, which enforces the CSA, states that it is illegal for registrants to transport controlled substances—such as those used by veterinarians for pain management, anesthesia or euthanasia—outside of their registered locations, which oftentimes for veterinarians are their homes or veterinary clinics. In particular, the DEA takes a narrow interpretation of the Code of Federal Regulations, which states: “A separate registration is required for each principal place of business or professional practice at one general physical location where controlled substances are manufactured, distributed, imported, exported or dispensed by a person.”
The DEA’s interpretation of the law is problematic for veterinarians who need to be able to treat many species of animals in a variety of settings. This is particularly important for veterinarians:
- in rural areas where it is often not feasible, practical or possible for owners to bring large animals or livestock into veterinary clinics or hospitals
- during emergency response situations where injured animals must be cared for onsite.
- when assisting communities with removing, rescuing or translocating dangerous wildlife and other wild animals.
- who provide house calls for their animal patients or operate mobile veterinary clinics.
- who are required to conduct field research and disease control efforts outside of their principal places of business.
AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division has been actively engaged in meetings with the DEA, Capitol Hill staff and other key stakeholders on behalf of its members to develop legislation to fix the CSA, especially in light of recent notifications by the DEA to veterinarians in California and Washington State that they are in violation of the law.
Last October, Rep. Schrader sent a bipartisan congressional letter, signed by 16 members of Congress, to the DEA asking for technical assistance on how best to resolve the situation. The DEA maintained that a statutory change would be necessary in order for veterinarians to legally transport and use controlled substances outside of their registered locations.
By passing the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, Congress will ensure that animals do not endure pain and suffering unnecessarily because their veterinarians are not allowed to bring the tools they need to do their jobs.
More than 110 veterinary medical organizations and associations in the United States have signed a statement of support for this important legislation.