A clearly misguided bill, S3402, was recently introduced in the New Jersey Senate that would prohibit veterinarians from euthanasia of animals suffering fatal disease or injuries for seven days if a cat or dog, having been seized by a law enforcement officer, places that animal in the care of a licensed veterinarian.  Specifically the bill states,

whenever a certified animal control officer, municipal humane law enforcement officer, county humane law enforcement officer, or other law enforcement officer seizes a cat or dog which the officer places in the care of a licensed veterinarian, veterinary hospital, or other establishment providing veterinary care to sick or injured animals because the officer believes the cat or dog is sick or injured and outside of the control of an owner, the licensed veterinarian, veterinary hospital, or other establishment providing veterinary care to sick or injured animals that receives the cat or dog shall hold the cat or dog and care for it for at least seven days.

The bill requires notification of the pets owner, if possible, but only permits euthanasia by a licensed veterinarian after seven days if the “animal is beyond recovery as determined by a licensed veterinarian.”  Such prohibition would necessarily require veterinarians, who diagnose incurable and painful conditions in such animals before the seven-day hold period, to keep those animals alive and suffering.  That cannot be the intended result of this bill, but sadly, that is how it is currently written.

Also, veterinarians would be required to provide care without reimbursement unless “the owner of the cat or dog is identified and the cat or dog is reclaimed by its owner.”  If the dog or cat is treated and survives and is sent to an animal shelter or animal rescue organization, the veterinarian would not be required to be reimbursed for such treatment.

To remedy these fatal issues with this bill, amendments should be introduced that (1) permits a licensed veterinarian to perform euthanasia when it is clear that the dog or cat would suffer terribly from a fatal condition if required to be kept alive for seven days; and (2) requires payment for veterinary services rendered from the jurisdiction placing that pet in the care of the veterinarian, if the pet is not reclaimed by its owner.

 

For those who do not receive notifications directly from USDA APHIS, please note that the agency has just announced that it has removed its Self-Reporting Incentive Program, included in the Animal Welfare Act Inspection Guide and published in Tech Note titled, “Incentives for Identifying, Reporting, Correcting, and Preventing Noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act.”

The reason provided for this changes is that the guidance and program “is no longer representative of the current agency policy for documenting Animal Welfare Act non-compliances.”

The agency has come under scrutiny for the implementation of this policy which was implemented without promulgation of a proposed regulation pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act.  It is unclear whether such scrutiny resulted in or contributed to this action.

The agency continues to offer assistance to licensees and registrants via its inspectors if a potential noncompliance issue is identified.

This change does not impact biomedical research facilities’ requirements to report to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) which enforces laws pursuant to the Public Health Service (PHS) Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animal for the National Institutes of Health.

Well known animal rights activist, New York Assemblymember L. Rosenthal, has introduced a bill that seemingly runs afoul of federal law, that among other permissible shipments, allows the shipment of certain poultry through the mail, under specifically prescribed conditions. The language of the proposed bill would ban these and other federally lawful practices,

      Section 1. The agriculture and markets law is amended by adding a new section 382 to read as follows:

  •            382. Prohibition of the shipping of live animals by postal mail.

It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, partnership or corporation to mail or offer for mailing a live animal by postal mail into or within the state of New York or from the state of New York to points outside the state of New York. As used in this section, “live animal” shall mean any mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian.  “Postal mail” shall mean mail that is processed and delivered by the United States postal service or other mail carrier.  A person, firm, partnership or corporation shall be considered to have mailed or offered for mailing a live animal in violation of this section when such person, firm, partnership or corporation causes such live animal and applicable postage or shipping fee to be physically placed in the possession of the United States postal service or other mail carrier.

As provided on an USPS website (see here ) the following animals are legally permitted to be shipped by mail, with certain requirements:

526 Mailable Live Animals

526.1 General

Some animals are mailable under proper conditions. See the specific instructions as noted for the following kinds of animals:

Live bees, 526.2 and Exhibit 526.21.

Live, day–old poultry, 526.3 and Exhibit 526.33.

Live adult birds, 526.4.

Live scorpions (only under limited circumstances), 526.5 and Exhibit 526.5.

Other small, harmless, cold–blooded animals, 526.6 and Exhibit 526.6.

The law requires USPS and shippers to provide for care of animals before and during shipment, and prohibits postal workers from rejecting a shipment if animals are properly protected.  It seems likely that the proposed bill, if challenged under the Supremacy clause of the Constitution of the United States, would be considered invalid.

GUEST COLUMNIST | Orlando Sentinel

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED FEB 04, 2021 AT 6:00 AM

More than 32 million doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to Feb. 3 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many more are on the way. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are churning out hundreds of millions of doses. And just last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the Food and Drug Administration could soon approve two more vaccine candidates.

This massive vaccination campaign is happening less than a year after health officials confirmed the first known case of the virus on U.S. soil. Now, we’re moving toward overcoming the pandemic. For that, we can thank animal research.

Consider how these vaccines came to be. The two vaccines currently authorized for use in the United States — developed by Moderna and a partnership between Pfizer and German firm BioNTech — were first determined effective in rhesus macaques. Humans share 93% of their DNA with these monkeys.

The next round of vaccines also has its roots in research in monkeys. Maryland-based Novavax, whose shot is in phase 3 clinical trials in humans, reported in July that the mice and non-human primates that received its vaccine developed an immune response after the first dose.

British drug firm AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which just received authorization in the United Kingdom, first proved itself in preclinical trials in monkeys at the University of Oxford. The vaccine candidate Johnson & Johnson developed — which, in contrast to the others, only requires one dose — is the product of research in rhesus macaques, too.

These latter two vaccines inject recipients with an adenovirus containing DNA with instructions for building the spike protein that rings the coronavirus. A person’s cells then start building that spike protein, which primes the immune system to produce antibodies that can neutralize the coronavirus and mark it for destruction.

Researchers have been investigating adenovirus vaccines in nonhuman primates for years in hopes of developing an easily modifiable template for fighting just about any pathogen. European regulators approved Johnson & Johnson’s adenovirus vaccine against Ebola in July. Work on adenovirus vaccines that would inoculate against HIV, influenza, and several other viruses is underway.

The vaccines developed by Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech team utilize a different approach. They build on the work of two University of Pennsylvania scientists who discovered over two decades ago that messenger RNA-based vaccines could initiate the creation of disease-fighting proteins in mice.

These mRNA vaccines introduce a sequence of mRNA that codes for a disease-specific antigen into the body’s cells. Once the body produces this foreign antigen, the immune system recognizes it and produces antibodies against it.

This technology has implications for many diseases beyond COVID-19. Scientists are developing mRNA-based Zika and flu vaccines.

BioNTech is also working on an mRNA vaccine against multiple sclerosis, which afflicts 2.3 million people worldwide. Existing treatments for MS suppress the immune system and consequently leave patients vulnerable to infection. The new mRNA technology targets specific MS-related proteins without compromising normal immune function.

The early returns are promising. The vaccine successfully alleviated symptoms in sick mice and prevented progression in those showing early signs of the disease.

Some critics of animal research have wondered how scientists could have developed the COVID-19 vaccine in less than a year when previous vaccines took decades to bring to market. Was it possible to skip some of the stages that have historically required animals in order to speed things up?

Hardly. Scientists conducted the basic research that’s at the foundation of every COVID-19 vaccine in animals.

After the pandemic hit, researchers first tested vaccine candidates for safety and some indication of efficacy in animal models. Then, with the permission of regulators, they tested the candidates for efficacy simultaneously in humans and animals.

It’s remarkable that scientists have been able to develop effective vaccines for COVID-19 within months. Animal research was instrumental in that effort — and will be behind the next miracle medical science brings about.

 

Matthew R. Bailey is president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes ethical animal research.

As recently reported by Aurelien Breeden in the New York Times ,a law was passed in France that would protect rooster crowing and certain other sounds of the French countryside, as defined by each area consistent with the law.

A report by Mr.  Pierre-Antoine LEVI , made on behalf of the Committee on Culture, Education and Communication, filed on January 13, 2021, describes the intent and background of the law.

This bill seeks to integrate within the common heritage of the nation the sounds and smells characteristic of natural, marine or terrestrial environments.

Apparently, local elected officials have received increasing requests from “newcomers” to rural areas who do not understand how agriculture works (and purportedly do not care) but instead object to the sounds and smells of the countryside, including the crowing of roosters at dawn, the smell of horse manure and flies that are attracted to barnyards and pastures, and even object to the sounds of church bells.

In the end, the increased media coverage of matters relating to sensory heritage undoubtedly reflects an erroneous perception of rural territories, which are seen by some newcomers, whether they are passing tourists or residents who have recently settled in, as places of preservation, nature and traditions to be protected . . . rurality is not a silent territory . . . ‘silence does not belong to the countryside any more than to the city.’

Mostly, this seems to be a common sense law.  The only potentially troubling outcome relates to a case in which the owner of a rooster named Maurice was sued by neighbors objecting to his noisy crowing.  As Breeden reported,

Politicians and thousands of petitioners rushed to the Gallic rooster’s defense, and a court eventually ruled in 2019 that Maurice, who died last summer at the age of 6, was well within his rights.  (Emphasis added.)

Without reading the actual court ruling, it is difficult to know whether the rooster’s “rights” were at issue or this statement was dicta and was not intending to extend rights to roosters and other animals.  More to come on that, when the decision is obtained.

Assembly bill No. 5236 was recently introduced in the state assembly that would establish “criminal offenses and civil penalties concerning [allegedly] inhumane confinement of breeding pigs and calves raised for veal.”

This bill was introduced by a legislator in Hudson County, New Jersey, part of the New York City metropolitan area, where Jersey City is the county seat-a city I know well from my childhood since my grandparents and mother lived there for decades.  I can assure you that there are no veal calves or breeding pigs targeted by this bill that are raised in Hudson County, and probably none raised in the entire state.

Further and more importantly, this bill is entirely unnecessary since the Department of Agriculture regulates such husbandry practices through the Humane Treatment of Livestock regulation that the legislature required in 1995.

That regulation requires veal calves to be raised as follows

(h) For cattle intended to be raised as Special-Fed veal, the NJDA adopts and incorporates by reference the recommendations for rearing and housing outlined in the Guide for the Care and Production of Veal Calves, Sixth Edition 2001 (American Veal Association, Inc., Middletown, PA 17507) as amended and supplemented.

Housing requirements, by regulation, require that calves have the space as currently proposed by the bill, which, as to veal calves is unnecessary and a waste of time for legislators who should be focused on other impending concerns.

As to housing for breeding hogs, while not an issue in New Jersey, such measures should be addressed by the state agency with the background, expertise and training in swine health and husbandry — the Division of Animal Health, New Jersey Department of Agriculture, and not to some albeit well-meaning but misinformed legislators.

 

Feral swine, an invasive species, have been a problem for years if not decades, and populations have been reported in at least 35 states with a total population “estimated at over 6 million,” as noted by USDA. At least one swine herd was reported in New Jersey while I was serving as the State Veterinarian, at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, where we teamed up with the state Department of Environmental Protection and USDA Wildlife Services to eradicate the feral swine wreaking havoc and destroying property in South Jersey.

As depicted in USDA published maps of feral swine populations, it looks like there have been no reported populations in NJ since after 2016.

However, feral swine populations appear to be growing exponentially across the country.  With few natural predators, if any, USDA has established and is implementing a program to eliminate these populations, which present significant animal and public health risks of disease transmission as well as environmental damage.

As described on USDA’s website the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program “was established by section 2408 of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, better known as the 2018 Farm Bill.”

A total of $75 million dollars was allocated to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to work together on pilot projects to help farmers and producers fight against feral swine damage.

Pilot projects will involve three highly coordinated components:

  1. Feral swine removal by APHIS;

  2. Assistance to producers for feral swine control provided through partnership agreements with non-federal partners; and

  3. Restoration efforts by NRCS.

The states participating in this program are listed on USDA’s website, along with instructions for submission of applications in the future, for those states interested in obtaining such assistance, if available.

Finally, it is important to highlight the importance of these efforts, that should help prevent the spread of African Swine Fever and other infectious, pathogenic diseases of swine, some of which can also infect people.

The California Veterinary Medical Board (Board) will meet by teleconference at 9:00 a.m., on Thursday, January 28, 2021 to discuss, amongst other agenda items, a “Presentation and Discussion on Access to Veterinary Care in California” presented by representatives from San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF SPCA) and Humane Society of the United States, Pets for Life (HSUS PFL).

The presentation, available online, includes the results of a study conducted by New Banfield Pet Hospital®, titled “75 Million Pets May Not Have Access to Veterinary Care by 2030, New Banfield Pet Hospital® Study Finds,” published on September 14, 2020.

In reality, as Matthew J. Salois, PhD, AVMA chief economist reported on October 26, 2019 during his keynote speech at the annual AVMA Economic Summit,

[n]early a third of the nation’s pets don’t see a veterinarian at least once a year.  That’s over $7 billion worth of veterinary care not being delivered to animals.

Some, but not all pet owners do not seek veterinary care for their pets because they do not believe they can afford such care; others reportedly do not see the value in such care.

For the former, the growing veterinary health insurance industry may provide assistance.  For the latter, the message must be clearer-routine annual examinations increase the health and longevity of pets.

The AVMA and other industry associations and businesses also promote increasing diversity of veterinarians providing such services, and have established

[t]he Commission for a Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Veterinary Profession [that] will work to drive change with the veterinary profession, expand the pipeline to include more people from diverse backgrounds, and encourage welcoming workplaces.  See JAVMA News, JAVMA, Vol. 258, No. 2, Jan 15, 2021.

Banfield Pet Hospital® and other industry leaders believe that increasing access to veterinary care must be addressed, at least in part, by addressing the shortage of veterinary professionals in the U.S., and that a correction should include the diversification of veterinarians in the profession.

The AVMA reports that veterinary college applicants has increased by 19%—a positive sign.

However, veterinary student educations debt also continues to rise, disproportionately impacting women and minority students, which must be addressed.

Anyone interested in attending the California Veterinary Board meeting where at least some of these issues will be discussed can do so by logging into the website and enter the following event number and password: Event number: 146 539 8288 Event password: VMB128.

This case, based on an investigation by the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (“TBVME”) into Dr. Hines’ digital provision of veterinary medicine, without the required initiation of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (“VCPR”) established by an in person examination, dates back to 2012.  The Board found that Dr. Hines had violated the Texas Veterinary Practice Act by providing “advice to dog, cat and exotic animal pet owners” for a fee, via Dr. Hines’ website or by email without establishing an in-person VCPR.

“In 2013, Hines filed suit against the Board members in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.”  Hines v. Quillivan, No. 19-40605 (Fifth Cir. Dec. 2. 2020).  “He argued that Texas’s physical-examination requirement violated his First Amendment, equal-protection, and substantive-due-process rights. The defendants filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, which the district court granted in part.” Id. (citing Hines v. Alldredge, No. 1:13-CV-56, 2014 WL 11320417, at *8 (S.D. Tex. Feb. 11, 2014)). “On appeal, though, this court held that all of Hines’s claims failed to state a claim.” Id.

Dr. Hines filed another suit in the Southern District of Texas on October 2, 2018 based on changes to Texas’s telemedicine law, and based on another Supreme Court case abrogating the professional-speech doctrine, which formed the basis in Dr. Hines first appeal (“Hines 1”).  In the recent lawsuit which was also dismissed, Dr. Hines brought another equal protection claim and renewed this First Amendment claims.  The complex legal argument will be discussed in a future blog, but upon further review of some of the facts, I wanted to share an interesting observation.

Many state boards of veterinary medicine have amended their requirements regarding telemedicine during the COVID pandemic, including the TBVME, which has issued the following guidance on its website:

The Board has jurisdiction over all veterinary medicine offered or provided to clients and patients located within the state of Texas.

. . .

The veterinarian must hold an active Texas license, even if they are licensed and located in another jurisdiction.  Telemedicine Guidance (emphasis added).

Without discussing whether Dr. Hines has a valid First Amendment professional-speech which has been remanded to the district court for further proceedings, it is not included in the record whether Dr. Hines offered advice via website or email to clients in or outside of the State of Texas.

If outside the State, I would argue that the TBVME does not have jurisdiction (although those other states would).  It is not clear whether jurisdiction was ever raised in these cases, and based on the Agreed Order 2012-98 Ronald S. Hines, D.V.M. appears to have consented to and waived his right to any jurisdictional challenged (which could potentially be challenged further).

It may be interesting to explore the disparate laws governing telemedicine in veterinary medicine and how that may impact the outcome of this and similar cases.

A317, a bill that would require annual inspection of animal or veterinary facilities as defined in Section 1 pf P.L. 1983, c. 98, has been re-introduced in the State Assembly.

Animal or veterinary facility, defined as incorporated, means “any fixed or mobile establishment, veterinary hospital, animal hospital or premises wherein or whereon the practice of veterinary medicine or any part thereof is conducted.”

Such annual inspections would include traditional small animal clinics and hospitals; specialty animal hospitals; companion and large animal ambulatory practices; zoos; pet shops, pounds, shelters and adoption facilities; and potentially other facilities “wherein or whereon the practice veterinary medicine or any part thereof is conducted.”

“Veterinary facility,” a subsection of animal or veterinary facility, is more limited and means “any place or establishment, operated on a for-profit basis, where a domestic companion animal, which is not owned by either the proprietor or care-giving veterinarian, is treated, temporarily sheltered, fed, and watered for veterinary care purposes. ‘Veterinary facility’ may include an animal or veterinary facility as defined in section 1 of P.L.1983, c. 98 (C.45:16-1.1).”  N.J.S.A. 45:16-8.3(c).

Based on existing state statute, wildlife rehabilitators and facilities where the care, repair and rehabilitation of wildlife species would be exempt, as long as the work performed is under the reasonable supervision of a licensed veterinarian.  See N.J.S.A. 45:16-8.1(8).

So what are my concerns?

  1. The cost of annual inspections will charged to veterinary and animal facilities, which will be passed to clients and consumers. The professional boards in the State have been required, in large part, to be self-funding.  Veterinary and animal facilities are not currently required to be registered or annually inspected, so this bill, if passed, will increase costs to these regulated premises.  Currently, these facilities may be inspected by order of the State Veterinary Medical Examining Board under the auspices of the Attorney General and based upon the receipt of a complaint.  If such an inspection and related investigation results in the identification of deviation of compliance with the Veterinary Practice Act and relevant regulations, the licensee will be required to pay for the costs related to the inspection and investigation, and any fines and restitution.  Therefore, if annual inspections are required, it is reasonable to assume that the premises will have to pay for those inspections.  As small businesses—typically—these facilities will pass those costs to their clients and customers.
  2. Promulgation of comprehensive regulations will be required to notify licensees the requirements for each type of premises. Existing law describes different types of veterinary facilities by name or title (see N.J.S.A. 45-16-9.3b) defining “Hospital”; “Clinic”; “Mobile”; “Medical center”; and “Emergency” in general terms and for the purpose of not misleading or deceiving the public “as to the nature or extent of the services rendered.”  Other than some specific requirements for Emergency Clinics, related to their hours of operation and administration, the only other statutory requirement is that “[f]acilities maintained and used in connection with the practice of veterinary medicine shall be clean and sanitary.” N.J.S.A. 45:16-8.2.  Because veterinary practices can significantly vary based on the type of animals treated therein, and level of specialty provided, regulations will have to specify the requirements of these various types of practices.
  3. There is no indication that annual inspection is required to protect consumers or animals. There is no similar annual inspection requirement for other health professional’s private practices, including those owned by physicians, dentists, etc.  It seems incongruous to have more rigorous regulatory requirements for veterinary and animal facilities animals, than exists in the State for medical facilities for people.