New Legislation in California Would Allow Unlicensed Vet Techs to Give Medication Without Vet Supervision

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Legislation liberalizing the vet practice act in California gained the unanimous support of the State Senate last week, and will now move to the State Assembly. SB 969, authored by Senator Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley), addresses bureaucratic barriers concerning Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVTs) and Unregistered Assistants (UAs) and their administration of medications.

RVTs and UAs have been allowed to administer controlled substances under the indirect supervision of a Veterinarian for countless years. However, a recent ruling from the Veterinary Medical Board (VMB) legal counsel put a stop to this practice. The VMB has since taken action to resolve this problem for RVTs, but not for Unregistered Assistants.

"Although the VMB had good intentions with the new regulations, the action creates a problem for veterinarians who do not have RVTs on staff," said Senator Aanestad. "It's well known that there is a shortage of RVTs in California, and veterinarians who employ UAs face a real problem with this new regulation."

SB 969 attempts to alleviate this problem by allowing Registered Veterinary Technicians OR Unregistered Assistants to administer controlled substances under the indirect supervision of a licensed veterinarian. The change in law would not only help veterinarians in private practice, but also city and county animal shelters, which often do not have a veterinarian present on site.

According to Senator Aanestad's office, SB 969 has the full support of the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and numerous veterinarians who operate private practices in California.

Blogger's Note: It will be interesting to see where the California Horse Racing Board comes in on this issue, and how the new law would play out at the racetrack. It is not clear whethere this legislation simply reverses the VMB legal ruling or if it expands the tasks of technicians. No comment from the RVT organization has been received; it seems like the VMB ruling was protectionist on behalf of the RVTs. There has been considerable discussion of vet hospitals skirting wage issues by choosing to employ unregistered technicians at lower wages. This is an interesting aspect of animal health that is rarely discussed in the horse press. My ears are up, since issues like this affect not just animals and the management of vet practices, but also the career aspirations of people considering the field as a potential career. It is interesting to note that the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians (AAEVT), a sister assocition to the AAEP, does not require licensure as a membership requirement. Ok, I'm ready for the comments...