2018 Legislative wrap-up

The mission of the New York State Veterinary Medical Society is to protect, promote and advance the science and profession of veterinary medicine in New York State. To further this mission, NYSVMS works throughout the year with the NYS Legislature and all relevant State agencies to ensure the highest quality of veterinary care is available to consumers.

The NYSVMS Government Relations Committee, in collaboration with legislative counsel and the Grassroots Legislative Network (GRLN), advocates on behalf of the profession of veterinary medicine by monitoring the legislation introduced by the state legislature that has a direct impact on the practice of veterinary medicine and weighing in to ensure that your voices are heard. Over the last several years, NYSVMS has worked to increase its profile among New York State government officials; this has resulted in legislators proactively seeking the guidance and input of NYSVMS on issues such as the mandatory reporting of animal abuse, the use of opioids in the practice of veterinary medicine, and the potential for use of medical marijuana in veterinary medicine.

The 2018 New York State Legislative Session concluded on June 20th, completing the second year of the two-year session (January 2017 – December 2018). All legislation still pending will need to be reintroduced at the beginning of the next legislative session, scheduled to begin in January 2019. See below for the status of the bills on the NYSVMS 2018 Legislative Agenda.


Compounding Medications


NYSVMS continues to work on the issue of ensuring compounded medications are available for “office use” in a veterinary patient setting.

While NYSVMS has supported legislation sponsored by Senator Valesky (S.4360) and Assemblyman Zebrowski (A.3340) that would permit a veterinarian to keep compounded drugs in stock for administration and sale pursuant to a non-patient specific regimen, it did not advance in either the Senate or Assembly this year. The understanding of NYSVMS has been that compounded medications could not be kept in stock to be used for non-patient specific prescriptions, but staff from the New York State Education Department has asserted that this practice is permissible. Seeking clarity on this issue, NYSVMS wrote to the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine asking for an official answer. Subsequently, the FDA withdrew its pending draft guidance (Draft Guidance for Industry #230, Compounding Animal Drugs from Bulk Drug Substances) and responded to NYSVMS that they planned to issue new draft guidance that would address our question more directly.

The lack of specificity and detail from the FDA on the issue of compounding animal drugs has prompted staff at the New York State Education Department and in both branches of the Legislature to defer action on the compounding legislation. NYSVMS continues to have conversations with the State Education Department as well as legislators and their staff so that this issue remains top-of-mind as we await the finalized FDA guidance document.


Declawing of Cats


NYSVMS worked throughout the 2018 session to combat legislation that would prohibit the declawing of cats in nearly all circumstances.

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Rosenthal (A.595) and Senator Griffo (S.3376) would prohibit the declawing of cats (onychectomy) in all circumstances, except when “necessary for a therapeutic purpose” such as the diagnosis of a disease in the cat. NYSVMS believes declawing is a serious medical procedure and the choice to perform one is a decision which should be left to the sound discretion of fully trained, licensed, and state supervised professionals operating within appropriate standards of practice. In addition, NYSVMS believes that declawing should be considered only after a complete education about the procedure and full briefings on alternatives, where the claws present a health risk to an owner, or where serious attempts to stop a cat’s destructive behavior have failed. However, declawing is often an alternative for owners that may otherwise leave their pet at a shelter, which can lead to euthanasia.

NYSVMS actively advocated against the bill throughout the 2018 legislative session. The legislation did not move out of committee in either House of the Legislature.


Bark Softening


Throughout the 2018 Session, NYSVMS opposed legislation introduced in both Houses of the Legislature that would outlaw bark softening in dogs, unless the procedure is medically necessary for the dog.

Senator Avella (S.1389) and Assemblyman Zebrowski (A.2126) sponsor legislation that would prohibit bark softening in dogs unless performed by a veterinarian where the procedure was medically necessary for a dog.

NYSVMS strongly believes bark softening is a medical decision which should be left to the sound discretion of fully trained, licensed, and state supervised veterinary professionals operating within appropriate standards of practice. Further, NYSVMS already discourages bark softening unless the procedure is medically necessary for a dog, is a last alternative to euthanasia, or when the animal will be surrendered by the owner if the procedure is not performed. Therefore, NYSVMS believes the determination to perform bark softening should be done on a case-by-case basis where specifics of the situation can be reviewed and evaluated, rather than having a ban placed on the procedure altogether.

The bill did not move out of committee during the 2018 legislative session; NYSVMS will continue to monitor this issue moving forward and to oppose an outright ban of bark softening if the legislation is introduced again next session.


Guardianship


NYSVMS has long opposed legislation that would allow the appointment of animal guardians that could seek monetary damages for causing an animal distress or death.

Assemblywoman Glick sponsors legislation (A.4749) that would establish a civil cause of action for wrongful death of a companion animal brought by a guardian for the animal that would be appointed by the court. This legislation does not traditionally have a companion version in the Senate and did not move out of the Assembly Codes Committee this year. In May, Senator Felder introduced similar legislation (S.8722) that would create a legal cause of action for the wrongful death of a companion animal. This bill did not move out of the Senate’s Judiciary

Committee. NYSVMS has closely monitored this type of legislation for many years and opposes it based on the belief that the bill could lead to costly court-ordered damages and could change the way SCPAs and animal control officers deal with injured, dangerous, or otherwise unadoptable animals. Passage of a guardianship or cause of action bill could also lead to lawsuits based on certain accepted veterinary practices such as declawing cats or neutering pets; advocates believing that these procedures are animal cruelty could seek the appointment of a guardian in those situations. NYSVMS will continue to oppose guardianship legislation in future sessions.


Reporting and Disclosure Requirements


Abuse Reporting

NYSVMS has successfully opposed legislation which would require veterinarians to report suspected animal cruelty.

Senator Boyle (S.621) and Assemblywoman Rosenthal (A.4904) reintroduced legislation requiring veterinarians to report any incident and disclose records where the veterinarian suspects that the animal was abused. This legislation was not reported out of either the Senate or Assembly Higher Education Committees.

Enactment of this type of legislation would expose veterinarians to liability if they do not report instances of animal abuse. The existing law encourages veterinarians to report instances of animal abuse by offering them immunity for criminal or civil penalties for reporting instances of animal abuse, but this legislation could unnecessarily impose liability on a veterinarian where the veterinarian fails to report a case of abuse. Further, NYSVMS would support legislation that would provide expanded immunity from liability for veterinarians for reporting suspected abuse of food production animals, which are not currently covered under the law.

During the 2018 legislative session, the Senate sponsor reached out to NYSVMS to discuss the bill. During that discussion, NYSVMS conveyed concerns about the need for a more wholistic approach to addressing animal abuse reporting, including an examination of training, resources for investigations, and the variety of ways animal abuse reporting is addressed in different areas of New York State. Senator Boyle was receptive to this suggestion and indicated that he would like to have a broader conversation with NYSVMS and other stakeholders in the coming months. Assembly staff reached to NYSVMS again this year to ask about our position and allowed us to share our idea for a broader discussion with the legislature and others.


Buoy’s Law


NYSVMS opposes legislation that would expand mandated notification requirements to owners of pets for prescribed medications.

Senator Boyle (S.664) and Assemblyman Englebright (A.4664) sponsor legislation that would impose a requirement on a veterinarian who prescribes or otherwise provides medication for an animal to notify the owner of the animal verbally and in writing of the potential risks and side effects of the medication prior to prescribing it. When a veterinarian repackages prescription medication prior to prescribing or providing it to a patient, he or she would be required, pursuant to this legislation, to provide a copy of the manufacturer’s warning label or informational insert

to the owner of the animal. For the third year in a row, the legislation was not referred out of either the Senate Agriculture Committee or the Assembly Higher Education Committee.

NYSVMS has explained to the bill sponsors that veterinarians already ensure that pet owners are fully briefed on all of the most common risks and side effects associated with a medication being administered to his or her pet. In addition to describing risks and side effects, veterinarians traditionally go a step further, discussing which of the potential side effects would be the most disconcerting, and at which point to call the office or bring their animal back in to be seen. Passage of this legislation would be burdensome, would duplicate current efforts of veterinarians, and could lead to costly adjustments for veterinarians, including hiring new staff in order to meet the new requirements.

NYSVMS is your voice for the profession of veterinary medicine in Albany, interacting and working in concert with state legislators and the executive branch. NYSVMS encourages membership to reach out and share concerns and hurdles you encounter in your practice that may need to be addressed by legislation or regulatory action.