2013: The Controlled Substances Act and Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act

Veterinary care drug usage

By Elisa Black-Taylor

Forgive me for being a bit long-winded as I explain the Controlled Substances Act and the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act of 2013. These are two bits of U.S. veterinary legislation aimed at our pets, both now and in the future. It concerns mostly at home vet care and mobile vet clinics.

This is just another way the U.S. Government has inadvertently caused more suffering to cats (and dogs, horses and cattle). Called the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), it’s been in effect for a while now. Veterinarians have been going against the law out of necessity for their four legged patients. Hopefully a new bill called the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act of 2013 (VMA) is about to change all of that.

The CSA affects mostly animals under hospice care at the pet’s home. Many veterinarians offer hospice care to their patients. This enables the pet to stay in the home and live out the remainder of their life in dignity, surrounded by the family who loves it. The CSA makes it illegal for a veterinarian to transport many of the common narcotic medications used to ease the pain of a cherished pet. Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I understand, it’s not illegal for the vet to USE them, only to TRANSPORT them because it is illegal to use these medications outside of the locations where the vet is registered.

The medications banned from transport are the ones the government determined are addictive (narcotics). Sodium Pentobarbital, which is used for home euthanasia, is one of the more than 40 drugs now illegal for the vet to transport from the animal clinic to the home of a hospice patient and so are medications used for pain management and anesthesia.

To add to the horror, as a result of the legislation (?) some rural practitioners are now using guns to shoot a pet. I REALLY hope this is a misprint on the reference article that listed this. Surely a pet parent would take a dying animal to the vet clinic rather that witness it being shot! Livestock are likely to be the animals being shot in lieu of a humane death, since euthanasia on a farm is illegal under CSA. Carrying a cow or horse to the local livestock vet isn’t very practical. I’m not sure whether many farm vets even have a permanent office, since most of their day is spent making the rounds at various farms.

Not only has the CSA affected the vets who make house calls, it also affects those who work out of mobile clinics. I’m not sure how this affects the mobile units that operate solely out of their camper type vehicle. I’d consider this a permanent office, but I’m not sure the government would see it that way.

Many rural communities rely on pet mobile veterinary care where a vet visits an area in a camper style vehicle and administers discount vaccinations. Some offer neutering after their inoculation time schedule is complete. The ones in my area only do cat neutering, and you have to call in advance to set up an appointment. Since cat neutering requires general anesthesia, this means the mobile vet performing the surgery is in violation of the law simply by having possession of the drug.

It also affects veterinary personnel who handle disaster situations. For example, rescuing a hurt animal after a flood or earthquake. Under this act, veterinarians who administer pain relieving medication at the scene of the disaster are in violation of the law.

The law is enforced by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who has already sent warnings to veterinarians in Washington and California stating they are in violation.

The VMA, HR1528, would correct these issues. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Kurt Schrader and Rep. Ted Yoho, and was introduced on April 12. It has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as to the Committee on the Judiciary.

It’s my personal opinion (oops, here goes my mouth again) that the government should stay out of our business as far as our personal companion animals are concerned. Most areas are fortunate if they have a mobile vet, or a vet who will euthanize a pet in a home setting. And a lot of mobile vets will lose a good portion of their neutering income, making it necessary to go up on prices for what they can legally offer. Veterinarians who make house calls to tend to sick or dying pets may also have to go up on other services. It would likely pressure even those vets who are against declawing to offer it in an effort to make up for the loss in income.

I’m afraid that if the VMA doesn’t soon pass, we may all be put under unnecessary stress in getting veterinary care, as the CSA will be more diligently enforced. Areas with only a mobile clinic for neutering will have to look to private practices and pay much more for the procedure.

Sorry, U.S. Government, you really blew it with the CSA. All you’ve done is increase the odds of a pet suffering at the end of its life or in the event of a natural disaster. This also takes money away from good veterinarians who can no longer legally offer at-home hospice care. All pet owners could eventually face higher vet costs, as well as devastating emotional issues in having to take a seriously ill pet to the actual vet clinic.

This is an important one, readers, because we need to change the current law. The most effective method to help pass the proposed bill is to contact your state representative. A list of contact information can be found at www.house.gov/representatives.


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2013: The Controlled Substances Act and Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act — 8 Comments

    • Interesting comment as usual! The original legislation was probably playing safe or the way it was drafted may have been dictated by existing legislation regarding people and drugs. Just guessing. It appears to have had unintended consequences.

  1. What a sad situation for pets,pet parents and vets.I hope this situation changes before the d.e.a. paralizes mobile vet clinics.

  2. Thank you the post; it was a revelation. Tmrw morn, I’m going to stop in to All-Feline Clinic (Lincoln, NE, US), and try to speak with Dr. Becky Arnold about this. She is so, so busy with her clinic and housecalls and lecture circuit, but I will ask her about this. She has been my veterinarian for 20 yrs, and I trust her with my kitties. She holds a PhD in human psychology as well. (She is looking forward to the day that I bring in my A1 Savannah SBT kittens, and so am I!)

    • She holds a PhD in human psychology as well

      I think I had better come and see her 😉 She’s probably excellent on dealing with the unfathomable human.

    • I agree – I think a vet who has a degree in human psychology might well understand the bigger part of feline health problems because often they stem from the human caretakers actions. So she sounds like a perfectly equipped vet actually. It’s amazing the amount of problems that come about because the human doesn’t know how best to care for the cat. She sounds like an interesting vet. Cal, you are lucky to have a such a vet.

  3. Excellent post regarding the law and veterinarians in U.S.A.Hope the law is changed in benifit of the Veterinarians making medical treatment cheaper and more convenient for the average U.S pet owner..U.S.A has the largest number of cat and dog owners in the World and hence the veterinary business is a billion dollar Industry.

    • The law in this instance seems to be have been defective. It was written with good intent but had unexpected consequences. This can often happen when drafting new legislation. Also as things change laws become out of date and less effective. They need updating.

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