Alabama spay-neuter bill dies quiet death - DVM
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Alabama spay-neuter bill dies quiet death
HB 156 allowing veterinarians to work at nonprofit facilities never reaches final vote; issues between clinics and ASBVME may be far from over.


Defining "quality of care"

The ASBVME is responsible for licensing and inspecting nonprofit spay-neuter clinics in Alabama and has the authority to close them if legal statutes and standards of care are not met. In June 2011, the board served the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic in Birmingham, Ala., with a cease-and-desist order, stating that the clinic was in violation of the Alabama Veterinary Practice Act requirement that a veterinarian own the clinic. The North Alabama Spay Neuter clinic in Huntsville, Ala., was denied its permit and closed from March 2011 through Jan. 1, 2012, during ownership turnover, according to clinic board member Jane Jatusso. She said Pitman refused to inspect the facility without a contract proving veterinary ownership. Pitman would not comment on the incident. The clinic was eventually purchased by Joy A. Baird, DVM, inspected and reopened in January.

In his letter to the ASBVME, Welch said, "By providing an environment of non-veterinarian supervision and non-veterinarian management of the entire veterinary facility, as evidenced in our investigations, the standard of care has been greatly compromised thus lending less protection to the public."

And yet, at the time of publication, all four of the state's nonprofit clinics, including the Alabama Animal Alliance Spay/Neuter Clinic in Montgomery, Ala., and the Wiregrass Spay/Neuter Alliance in Dothan, Ala., are open and continue to operate under the jurisdiction of the ASBVME.

The actions of the ASBVME, the temporary closing of the Huntsville clinic and the resulting public outcry from spay-neuter advocates throughout the state prompted the introduction of HB 156 earlier this year. Although the cease-and-desist order and the closure of the North Alabama Spay Neuter clinic were executed under the Veterinary Practice Act's veterinary ownership provisions, the ASBVME opposition to HB 156 has focused on quality of care. Welch did say he believes one cannot exist without the other.

"We're there to protect the public. We protect the public by regulating the profession," Welch said of the board's purpose. "Ownership ensures that the public knows that [a clinic's] veterinarian is regulated."

Mark Nelson, executive director of the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic, maintains that the clinic practice was and is owned by William B. Weber, DVM. The 501(c)(3) owns the building. Nelson told DVM Newsmagazine that while he does not want to seem confrontational toward the ASBVME or opponents of HB 156, "I will defend our quality of care." He dismisses the notion that the care provided at Alabama's spay-neuter clinics is subpar. "We had a surprise inspection in 2011," Nelson says. "The inspector was very professional. He did a very good job."

Nelson says the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic received a positive review: "The facility was in excellent shape." One of the few things the inspector requested was that the clinic post an Occupational Safety and Health Administration plan in the break room. "Quality of care—[this opposition] is not about quality of care—believe me," Nelson says.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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