Identifying scope of illegal practice

Identifying scope of illegal practice

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Sep 01, 2011

SCHAUMBURG, ILL. — The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) developed a new data collection tool to help in the fight against non-DVMs performing veterinary procedures.

While this issue is difficult for state boards to regulate, a survey by the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) says the problem is more pervasive than most think.

In fact, this tool will ultimately help state regulators follow-up on reports of illegal veterinary practice and build ammunition to lobby lawmakers for stronger language in veterinary practice acts, AVMA says.

Nearly 80 percent of veterinarians surveyed recently in California report they have encountered illegal veterinary practice in their area.

To counteract it, AVMA wants veterinarians to report information regarding cases of suspected illegal practice by downloading a new "scope of practice form" currently at http://avma.org/ and return it to the association.

"Hopefully it's going to assist the state veterinary medical associations in documenting cases where these practices are actually happening," explains Adrian Hochstadt, AVMA's assistant director of state legislative and regulatory affairs.

While only four reports have been submitted to AVMA since it began collecting data in mid-June, Hochstadt says the project will reveal trends as participation increases. Ultimately, the plan is to organize data by state, type of procedure and where the reports came from, and make the results available to veterinary advocates.

AVMA will not investigate any of the reported procedures, nor would it seek to prosecute offenders, he adds.

"This is simply an attempt to help with advocacy," Hochstadt says. "We're not going to investigate, but we want to know what's going on out there."

Dr. Stephen Dullard, chair of the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association (ISVMA) Legislative Committee, helped develop the resource after running into problems changing the Illinois veterinary practice act. Legislators indicated that ISVMA didn't have enough hard evidence about the problem of non-DVMs performing veterinary procedures to warrant changes to state regulations, according to AVMA.

But in California, illegal veterinary practice is considered a big problem, one the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) has been fighting for a long time, says CVMA Executive Director Valerie Fenstermaker. Laws already are in place in California to prevent non-DVMs from performing veterinary procedures, but Fenstermaker says the state veterinary medical board needs more power to enforce those laws.

Proving there is a problem can sometimes be the hard part, Fenstermaker says.

Last October, CVMA performed a survey asking members to report what they are seeing in terms of illegal practice, and what level of harm those illegal practices are causing animals.

"We've tried to work with our members to have them contact us when they know of illegal practice," Fenstermaker says. "But surveying our members was really the start to get a handle on the issues. The results were what we were expecting, but it was great to see in that format."