Senator Linda R. Greenstein introduced S3019 on Feb. 27, 2017, a bill that would establish “additional requirements for operation and oversight of animal shelters, pounds, kennels operating as shelters or pounds, and veterinary holding facilities.”
The bill creates liabilities for veterinarians who provide certain critical services to municipalities. If enacted, it is unclear why veterinarians would expose themselves to such liability. Therefore, critical services currently provided by these veterinarians to communities could place both people and animals at unnecessary risk.
The following provisions are of greatest concern:
The bill defines “veterinary holding facilities” as “any facility owned or operated by a veterinarian, veterinary hospital, clinic, veterinary boarding facility, or similar facility that houses stray, surrendered, or otherwise impounded animals as a boarding agent or holding facility for an animal control provider, the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or any of its humane law enforcement officers or agents, a county society for the prevention of cruelty to animals or any of its humane law enforcement officers or agents, or local law enforcement.”
If an animal control officer, an agent of the NJSPCA or a country SPCA, or a professional law enforcement officer brings an animal in need of veterinary medical care to a veterinarian for emergency care, that veterinarian is required to provide such care. See N.J.A.C. 13:44-4.7. If part of that care requires short or long-term housing for that animal, the veterinarian could be defined as a “veterinary holding facility” which then qualifies that facility as an “animal holding facility.” S3019 would require each animal holding facility, including a veterinary holding facility to:
- provide specific vaccinations to each animal in the facility;*
- apply for a pound license from the municipality in which it operates;
- employ a properly trained and certified director of the facility; and
- establish specific hours of operation during which time they must be open to the public.
This bill would expose veterinarians to liability for serving their communities by providing care to abandoned, injured, and rescued animals they treat on an emergent basis. Many of these provisions are not appropriate and are unnecessary for veterinary facilities which are governed by statutes and regulations enforced by the State Board of Veterinary Medicine Examiners which “supervise[s] the practice of veterinary medicine, surgery and dentistry; ensure[s] that veterinary medicine is performed in a manner consistent with acceptable medical and ethical standards; and adjudicate[s] consumer complaints against licensees.”
These provisions of S3019, while well-meaning, should be amended.
*While vaccination generally should be required in animal facilities, it is unwise to require specific vaccines in statutes or regulations, since recommendations change over time, as informed by advances in veterinary medicine. Instead, laws should incorporate by reference recommendations from appropriate veterinary associations such as the American Animal Hospital Association.