Is delegating dangerous?
Many states have a statute that provides for the licensing of veterinary technicians. But the degree to which these laws provide
guidance for the technicians (and veterinarians themselves) as to what they're allowed to do in the clinic varies. Despite
the lack of clarity, you'd better know the law as it applies to them.
My office knows of a recent case of a veterinarian in a southern state who was aggressively and publicly sanctioned for performing
an act that's not actually addressed in her state's veterinary practice act. Rather, she acted in violation of law by permitting
a licensed veterinary technician to perform a procedure that is not allowed under the technician practice act. And that prohibited
procedure was added to that state's technician practice act only recently.
Does your state send you an update in the mail when its legislature or veterinary board creates an amendment to the law governing
veterinary technicians? Probably not. But that doesn't mean the state won't expect you to follow the new regulation. Consequently,
when you're done reading up on your state's pharmacy and nursing regulations, be sure to pick up a copy of the veterinary
technician law. And make sure it's the latest edition.
A lot of us believe that the rules governing the procedures and practices our staff members are allowed to carry out are intuitive—you
know, common sense. Some of us believe that spending time thinking about the parameters of our technicians' clinical authority,
for example, is a waste of time. Well, consider this:
When a veterinarian puts a pet in the hands of a licensed veterinary technician so he or she can perform a dental cleaning,
what the law allows the technician to do depends entirely on where he or she is standing. If that person is standing in any
of several states, it's anybody's guess whether the technician is limited to being able to hand-scale while the is pet awake
or is allowed to replace a jaw full of teeth with prostheses under general anesthesia. The law just doesn't say much about
But if that technician has his or her feet firmly planted in South Carolina, the technician better not remove any teeth, no
matter how loose, because only the veterinarian can do that. That technician's colleague a few miles to the south could legally
remove teeth from the same pet. But only if a tooth was really loose—or not loose at all but happens to be a canine tooth.
Yes, the state of Georgia has a nice, clear regulation on the subject. However, Georgia is not quite as clear when it comes
to tracheal intubation. Licensed technicians apparently can do it, but not if the case is really serious. Huh? (Georgia Statutes,
Don't take my word for any of this—read the laws. Suggesting you do otherwise would violate my state's practice act.
Dr. Christopher Allen is president of Associates in Veterinary Law P.C., which provides legal and consulting services to
veterinarians. Call (607) 754-1510 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org