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.