American Mobile Veterinarians Need More Freedom to Practice Fully

The stringent regulatory regulations contained in the Controlled Substances Act ties the hands of veterinarians in the United States today from legally administering medications that alleviate the pain and suffering of animals who are terminally ill, those with serious injuries or those suffering from painful chronic illness. As the laws stand now, veterinary practitioners are prohibited from transporting controlled substances in their vehicles; even if these drugs are stored in a locked box.

Veterinarian with cat

Photo by Jo Singer- Erin Holder, DVM Treats Sir Hubble Pinkerton at home

It is still against the law for veterinary practitioners to transport controlled substances in their vehicles – even if these drugs are stored in a locked box. And while many mobile veterinarians believe that since it’s necessary to carry certain pain-controlling drugs in the course of their work; as long they are carried in a locked box law, enforcement personnel consider its transport acceptable. Additionally since the Controlled Substance Act is not greatly enforced, mobile practitioners often carry these drugs to visit patients under their care. Unfortunately the reality is that in the United States this is still strictly illegal.

Veterinarians making house, barn or farm calls are only allowed to transport the specific amount of the necessary controlled substance, based on the weight of the patient being treated. If a subsequent appointment for another client is scheduled requiring the administration of a controlled substance, it prevents animals from being treated quickly since the practitioner must return to the home location to pick up the weight-specific dose in order to be in compliance with the law.

Presently by law, practitioners must register every location in which they store, distribute or dispense controlled substances. However, the Drug Enforcement Agency, (DEA) basically has historically overlooked the Controlled Substances Act for mobile veterinarians.

However, the DEA has been leaning in the direction of enforcement mainly in the state of California. Even though Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the DEA admitted that in the case of veterinarians the law seems controversial; he cautioned,

“It’s our charge and our mandate to enforce the Controlled Substance Act. Those in violation could receive scrutiny”.

How can animals be given the highest quality treatment if their hands are so incredibly tied?

This said, at long-last there is a ray of sunshine on the horizon for veterinarians who make house calls. According to a news item posted on the Humane Society’s Animals and Politics Legislative Fund’s site, on Wednesday, January 7, the United States Senate approved the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act – (S.1171) unanimously. This crucial legislation will finally give veterinarians the freedom to treat their patients effectively, allowing them to administer sedation and/or pain-killing medication, anesthesia or euthanasia to patients in the field, outside of their regular clinic location.

Introduced by the only two veterinarians serving in Congress; House Bill H.R.1528 has strong bipartisan support of 146 co-sponsors.

To help ensure that these bills pass which will give veterinarians the opportunity to render appropriate and timely care to their patients, the American Veterinary Medical Association is asking veterinarians to contact their representatives to ask them to cosponsor and vote for the companion bill in the House—H.R. 1528, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act.

Animal guardians in the United States can also take action to get this law passed once and for all to untie our veterinarians’ hands so they are able to legally treat our pets appropriately. Please contact our veterinarian to remind them to take this crucial step right away.

What are your thoughts on the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act? Share your opinions in a comment.


Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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23 Responses

  1. Jo Singer says:


    I interviewed several vets when the issue first was made public a couple of years ago- spreading the word about the law. I was totally amazed that many of the practitioners -both vets practicing only in clinics and those with mobile practiceswith whom I spoke didn’t even know that this law is on the books. All the mobile vets told me they carry controlled substances anyway- in a locked box which they take out of the car every time they arrive at a destination.

  2. Iniki says:

    I was aware of this law in the past. I also know that the mobile vets many times ignore the law and carry what they need. When it comes to helping ailing and injured animals there is just no time to go back to the office to get more supplies. One vet that I know caries what the law allows and calls to the office for the needed meds. One of the assistants brings them to him. As a result it costs $50.00 just for our large animal vet to pull in the driveway. Part of that cost is a state levied fee per call. That just hacks me when I have to give the state money because I need a vet. We would just load our large animals up and take them to the vet but the cost is the same. These laws are made by people who jump the gun on legislation because someone they know has been effected by a problem. That is how some dog breeds get banned in places and even some cat breeds. It is unfair to limit meds that vets can carry. Just wrong.

  3. Amy says:

    I can totally understand the need for this law. Have multiple pets having a mobile vet would and could impact my critters quality of life. Now to the other side of the coin, isn’t there always a negative for each positive? As soon as the low lives find out mobile vets carry controlled substances the vets themselves could become targets. I hate to look at it that way but to be honest it would not surprise me one bit to see people who save animals lives could be hurt or even killed by some drug addicted jerk.

  4. Marc says:

    ….so is this legal? I hope so!

    • Michael says:

      Yes, good point Marc, how do mobile mass spaying and neutering facilities deal with this law? Are they just conveniently ignored?

      • Jo Singer says:

        Marc- an excellent question. I am wondering if they get an exemption from the law. I’m thinking that it’s possible these mobile units that spay and neuter may be considered “free standing” clinics rather than being considered the typical mobile vet.

  5. Reno says:

    I truly hope that this bill passes.

  6. Jo Singer says:


    You can call your veterinarian and remind him/her to contact their legislators. The bill’s number is on the blog. We can also call our legislators too and let them know that we are supporting the passage of the bill and why it is so important in the appropriate treatment of animals.

    What makes the law now in place so outrageous is that a vet is only permitted to take ONE dose of a specific drug for a patient of a certain weight.. administer the drug and then have to return to the clinic to get another dose of a controlled substance to bring to the next patient- over and over again. Some vets here are mobile all the time and having to return to the clinic is a waste of their time in getting to their next patient in a timely fashion.

    • Caroline says:

      Yes, my comment was directed specifically to jmuhj. I do understand the issues, it’s just that I am always left wondering if I’ve left some pro-action out 😉 that’s as effective as writing to legislator supporting the bill. You see, I want to do what I can, yet I’m new to this.

  7. Rani Merens says:

    That’s a crazy law and thanks for publicizing this.

    You know what I don’t understand? They don’t want vets to carry more than single needed doses but are they going after those horrid PETA vans that carry multiple doses of drugs to kill cats? Grrrr

  8. Michael says:

    Thanks for this Jo. The Controlled Substances Act was enacted in 1970 as far as I know. Part of the reason for its existence is to comply with international treaties.

    But…(a) I can’t understand why it applies to the medical profession. I would seem to be a incorrect way of interpreting the Act to allow it to impact on the work of vets and (b) it is 43 years old and regarding legal drugs the world has moved on and (c) our attitude towards companion animals has moved on too.

    Perhaps 43 years ago a lot of vets and legislators didn’t understand that companion animals feel pain and have emotions like people.

    We know more about pain in animals. We are more sympathetic. Although there is a long way to go.

    Bearing in mind how upsetting it is for cats to attend a vet’s clinic, home visits are probably underused. Certainly for euthanasia at v.old age and/or terminally ill, a home visit must be the best way provided the owner can afford it.

    So, a change is overdue and it appears that the legislators agree that.

    • Caroline says:

      It seems that “b” is the nucleus/essence of this, and I am certainly now -thanks to Jo and Michael- understanding the obsolescence of this particular law, The Controlled Substances Act of 1970. My god, is this the only means of getting crazy laws still on the books amended? Why aren’t there mainframe computers responding to these needs in law, before our lawmakers/reformists get hit in the noggin with a sledgehammer? Are we more at fault, as citizens? or is it the Judicial System more oft than naught to blame? I am so naive. 🙁

      • Michael Broad says:

        LOL. Great comment Cal. It is amazingly slow and laborious to change bad law. It is the nature of the democratic process.

        In Russia, Putin just makes presidential declarations and it is law! Overnight. That can be good but obviously is normally bad.

  9. jmuhj says:

    Thank you for sharing this with our community, Jo. If I was to express my feelings honestly on this subject, it might get me in trouble, so I’ll just say that, as a Californian, I am *OUTRAGED* and as someone whose family members are felines, I am *WAY BEYOND OUTRAGED* that the “celebs”, politicians, and others whom the mainstream society claims to respect can abuse substance to their heart’s content, and not even get a slap on the wrist for it, while these livesaving medical experts’ hands are tied. You better believe I’ve contacted my legislators about this issue, for all the good it will do.

    • Caroline says:

      Help. What is/are the most effective action(s) we can take with our legislators on this issue?

      • jmuhj says:

        Caroline, if you’re asking the author of the article, she’s suggested we contact our legislators telling them to support/vote for this legislation. If you’re asking me, however, my reply would get me in a whole heap of trouble, but you might be able to guess ;(

  10. Donna says:

    My vet comes to my home, and I rely on him to provide me what I need to keep my cats without pain. If that means a controlled substance, then so be it.

  11. Riverside Robyn says:

    Follow the money. The State of California thinks its citizens are nothing but cash cows.

  12. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    I hope you get that law passed there. So many rules and regulations are badly thought out and can hinder the quality of treatment vets can give.

  13. DW says:

    I am very grateful that our vet was able to come to the house to euthanize Daisy. It makes no sense to have the last hours of a beloved pet be subjected to a trip to the vets office. I wish more small animal vets would make house calls. It is much better for cats. Less stress for the human as well. I would use a mobile pet exclusively if it were available.

    • Marc says:

      That’s very sad- I’m sorry I didn’t know Daisy had passed Dorothy.

      • DW says:

        Thank you Marc. That was back in May of last year. She went peacefully. I did talk about it here, but I think only in a comment. Marvin is king of the roost now. He is the main reason I need to find a mobile vet. He has been only once. His wildcat nature took over. Never again! But he will need the services of a good vet someday, I’m sure.

        This is an important piece of legislation. I’m calling my veterinarian today.

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