Spay-neuter bill passes Alabama Legislature

Spay-neuter bill passes Alabama Legislature

Controversial bill would allow veterinarians to be employed by nonprofit facilities in the state.
Jun 01, 2012

Alabama House Bill 156 (HB 156), otherwise known as the Spay-Neuter Clinic Protection Bill, recently passed the state House by a vote of 73-23 and the Senate by a vote of 27-3. The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, and would allow veterinarians to be employed by non-veterinarians in Alabama's nonprofit spay and neuter facilities.

Under current Alabama law, veterinarians are prohibited from being employed under these conditions unless covered by an exemption. If passed into law, HB 156 would add an exemption to allow employment of a veterinarian at a nonprofit facility, provided the facility performs only spay and neuter surgeries, designates a licensed veterinarian to supervise veterinary medical practice, meets the minimum standards set by the Alabama Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners and receives a permit for the premises approved by the board. In addition, the facility would be subject to onsite inspections as determined by the board.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently submitted a letter in support of the bill, stating that HB 156 is likely to benefit the public by increasing consumer access to, and choices for, spay and neuter services for their pets. The FTC maintains that while certain professional licensure requirements are necessary to protect consumers, some restrictions—such as preventing licensed professionals from being employed by non-licensed persons or firms—may actually reduce competition and consumer choice by preventing the emergence of new, more efficient forms of professional practices.

"Studies have shown that such restrictions can act as barriers to entry by new competitors, and consumers may end up paying higher prices as a result," the FTC's letter states. "By contrast, consumers benefit when professionals have the ability to develop more efficient ways to offer their services to consumers at a comparable level of quality."

The FTC also points out that the bill provides a number of safeguards to ensure that the quality of spaying or neutering services is the same, regardless of whether the facility is owned by a veterinarian or a nonprofit.

The Alabama Veterinary Medical Association (ALVMA) did not take an official position on the bill, as a consensus either in support of or against the bill could not be reached among its constituents. "Essentially, we want to do what's best for pets," says Dr. Kirk Holland, president of the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association. "If veterinarians are upholding the standards set by the Alabama Veterinary Practice Act, wherever they're practicing, that's the main thing that matters."