As the COVID-19 pandemic has settled down the in minds of lawmakers, attention has shifted elsewhere. Nearly 20 new bills that impact the veterinary and animal health industries have been proposed in the last few months that represent a gamut of legislative priorities from employee protections to an important amendment of the Veterinary Practice Act.
As the House and Senate move into summer recess, I would encourage you to look at the bills below and use this time, when representatives and senators are more likely to be back in their home offices, to express your opinion on these bills. This is especially important if your specific representative or senator is a member of the committee in which the bill currently sits (highlighted at the end of each summary).
Summer can be a slow time of year in Lansing, but politics never stop. The warm weather can be a wonderful time to start a new conversation and build a positive relationship with your members of congress.
Amending the Veterinary Practice Act
HB 4912, introduced by Robert Bezotte (R-47) with five bipartisan cosponsors, amends the Veterinary Practice Act with long saught after updates for the veterinary profession. A summary has been released and additionally shows the bill is unlikely to have a negative fiscal impact. The bill makes several changes to how veterinary medicine is conducted, however, it makes four primary and significant changes.
- Establishment of criteria for a Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VCPR). This includes responsibility for making clinical judgments with the client agreeing to follow instructions, sufficient knowledge of the patient to make a preliminary diagnosis, and availability for follow-up care if there is an adverse reaction or treatment failure. Details are further laid out regarding termination of a VCPR, emergencies, or when clients cannot be identified.
- Expands the scope of what is considered “veterinary medicine” in Michigan. In addition to the administration of drugs, treatments, and operations, now included are administering vaccines to non-livestock species, dental procedures, physical therapy, and non-western therapies such as acupuncture, homeopathy, and phytotherapy.
- Establishes requirements to represent a hospital as an “emergency” facility. These include a veterinarian and sufficient staff being present at all hours of operation; instruments, medications, and supplies sufficient to provide emergency care are available; and the location is either a full-service hospital or provides after-hours/24-hour emergency services.
- Repeals section 16284 of the Michigan Public Health code, which prohibits certain forms of telehealth services.
This bill has been a focus of the MVMA and veterinarians across Michigan for many years. Since the Snyder Administration invalidated the portion of Michigan law that codified a VCPR, veterinary industry representatives have been pushing to re-establish an official VCPR to become in line with other states and federal regulations. HB 4912 was first introduced with the inclusion of the text of HB 4726 (discussed below), however, this wording was removed in substitute H-1 that was reported with a recommendation from the Committee on Agriculture and now is on a second reading. It is hoped that with a strong voice of constituents over the summer recess that the House will move to pass this bill.
Newly Introduced Bills
SB 582, introduced by Paul Wojno (D-9) may have significant negative implications for veterinary training. This bill makes it a $1,000–5,000 fine, per violation, for a public body to conduct a research or training activity on a dog in a manner that causes pain or distress. In their definition, a university teaching hospital is included as a public body. Additionally, even if pain mitigation is provided, the fact that a procedure would cause pain without an analgesic would qualify the procedure as a violation. There is an exemption included for cases where owners consent to their dog being used for veterinary training or clinical research; however, this exemption is only for “necessary treatment of an existing disease or ailment.” For example, if strictly followed, students would not be allowed to train in performing a stomach tack to prevent a GDV as this does not treat an existing disease. Although SB 582 may provide certain protections for owners in ensuring their animals receive their expected quality of care, the bill has serious shortcomings that should be addressed prior to passage. This bill has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture.
HB 4791 and HB 4792, introduced by Steve Carra (R-59) and (Beau LaFave R-108), respectively, along with a large mix of Republicans from across the state and a lone Democrat, Shri Thandedar, continue the trend began by HB 4471 that restricts businesses from understanding the vaccine status of either their employees or potential customers. HB 4791 allows civil suits to be taken against employers that ask about a vaccine status of an employee or prospective employee. This bill goes beyond COVID-19 to include any vaccine status. Given the importance of vaccinations, such as rabies, for veterinary personnel, such a bill could have a significant negative impact on the veterinary industry. Less directly impacting the veterinary field is HB 4792 that simply prevents businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination, such as in the form of a vaccine passport. These bills have been referred to the Committee on Oversight.
HB 4881 and HB 4882, introduced by Kevin Hertel (D-18) and Tommy Brann (R-77), respectively, along with nine other Democrats, place requirements upon dog and cat research facilities to both offer animals no longer used for research to animal shelters (HB 4881) and provide records of their research animals to the State on a yearly basis (4882). Similar bills were introduced in the previous legislative sessions and received strong pushback from the animal research industry and several veterinary groups. Most large animal research facilities already have adoption programs in place for animals that can safely be adopted out making these bills largely unnecessary. Additionally, animal research facilities are already required to provide a significant amount of documentation to the USDA regarding their animal populations making the record reporting requirement redundant. Overall, HB 4881 and 4882 are unlikely to truly increase animal welfare in any practical manner. More likely, they are a means to curtail the activities of animal research facilities. These bills have been referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform.
HB 4784, introduced by Tommy Brann (R-77), and SB 395, introduced by Dayna Polehanki (D-7), each aim to improve sheltering requirements for animals in inclement weather. Similar bills have been introduced in previous legislative sessions and have not received traction. SB 395 focuses almost exclusively on temperature, prohibiting dogs from spending more than 30 minutes outside if the temperature is below 32 degrees F before coming inside a space that is at least 45 degrees for at least 30 minutes. Animals actively participating in a recreational activity are excluded. Although this is a new approach to this form of bill, considering only temperature rather than the type of shelter or dog breed/coat could negatively impact certain working breeds that are not necessarily significantly impacted by cold. Alternatively, HB 4784 takes a more typical approach to inclement weather protection, requiring increased protections for dogs that do not have the natural capacity to comfortably spend longer periods of time in inclement weather. SB 395 has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture as HB 4784 has been referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
HB 4726, introduced by Luke Meerman (R-88), would allow those without an active MI veterinary or veterinary technician license to apply for a 90-day temporary license during a state of emergency that impacts animals if they hold such a license in another state. Such applicants must not be facing disciplinary proceedings in other states and cannot be paid for their veterinary work unless paid by government or non-profit entities. Given that temporary emergency licenses are not uncommon in other states, this bill would lend significant help to the State in emergency situations impacting animals. A summary has been released that also shows the bill would have little to no fiscal impact on the state or local units of government. This bill has been referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform.
HB 4703 and HB 4704, introduced by Douglas Wozniak (R-36), aim to prevent animals seized by law enforcement from returning to their owners if a criminal conviction is upheld. Additionally, they place a greater financial burden on owners of seized pets by requiring them to cover the costs of veterinary care, boarding, and essentially any other burden on animal shelters or law enforcement related to the seizure or the animal itself. Overall, although the bills are unlikely to de-incentivize any illegal activity, they continue a trend over the past few years of the MI legislature taking notice of illegal activities related to animals and small steps to correct what has been an illegal industry that faces little legal recourse for its activities. These bills, at a minimum, should keep animals away from dangerous owners and help local governments to cover the costs of providing proper care and housing to seized animals. The bills are nearly identical in verbiage but placed within different sections of the Michigan Penal Code. The bills have been referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
HB 4654, introduced by Cara Clemente (D-14) and 16 other members is a re-introduction of a previously introduced bill (HB 5465–2020) from Hank Vaupel that would establish a rare disease advisory council. Such a council would consist of a mix of those with or impacted by rare diseases, government employees, and healthcare industry professionals. The main tasks of the advisory committee will be to act as a voice to the State on how to best develop policies to support those with and prevent rare diseases among many other sub-tasks. A fiscal analysis gives a summary of the bill and shows the financial cost to be $100,000–200,000 annually to the Dept. of Health and Human Services. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Health Policy.
HB 4723, introduced by Padma Kuppa (D-41) and a bipartisan list of co-sponsors would make the shelter pet the official pet of Michigan. This bill is a reintroduction of a 2019 bill. It has been referred to the Committee on Government Operations.
HB 4611, introduced by Tullio Loberati (D-13) and 12 other members, changes regulations regarding carrier pigeon permits to both only allow permits to be issued when the owning of carrier pigeons is in compliance with local government ordinances but also prohibits local governments from enacting ordinances that prohibit the keeping of carrier pigeons. This bill is a reintroduction from 2019 where it saw no movement and has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture.
HB 4785 and HB 4786, introduced by Tommy Brann (R-77), update bills related to animal cruelty to mark clerical changes to law reference numbers. The bills have been referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
HB 4558, introduced by Annette Glenn (R-98) would prorate all licensing and re-licensing fees for professionals in Michigan that are unable to perform their jobs due to a declared State of Emergency. HB-4559 and HB-4560 make similar changes in other sections of the law that direct LARA. These bills are meant to begin retroactively on Jan 1 2020. A summary has been released here. All three bills passed the House on June 17 2021 with 338 Yeas and 100 Nays and are now with the Committee on Regulatory Reform in the Senate.
SB 549 is a re-introduction from the previous legislative session by Lana Theis (R-22) that creates detailed regulations for the installation and continued care of pet cemeteries. This bill has been referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform.
Legislation with Significant Movement
HB 4497, concerning the aerial spraying of pesticides to control infectious diseases such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis, passed the House on May 5th 2021 with 168 Yeas and 82 nays, with an amendment (H-1), requiring the Dept. of Health and Human Services to notify spraying locations if a planned spray has been canceled as well. A summary of the bill has also been released that shows the MI Dept of Health and Human Services is in opposition to the bill. This bill has now been referred to the Senate Committee on Health Policy and Human Services.
HB 4256 providing further public protections for service animals in training was passed in the House on the 27th of May 2021 with 264 Yeas and 94 Nays. A fiscal analysis was released for the bill showing that it would have an indeterminate impact. Additionally, an analysis of the bill reported from committee was released outlining the arguments both for and against the bill. The only specified opposition to the bill was shown to be the Michigan Association for Pure Bred Dogs. This bill has now been referred to the Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform.
Updates on Previously Introduced Bills
HB 4497, concerning the aerial spraying of pesticides to control infectious diseases such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis, has Passed the House and was referred to the Committee on Health Policy and Human Services in the Senate. An analysis is available here.
HB 4256, providing further public protections for service animals in training, has passed the House and has been referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform in the Senate. An analysis is available here.
SB 44, which protects emergency responders from workplace penalties, has not moved.
SB 50, which widens the scope of penalties those involved in dogfighting can face, has not moved.
HB 4514, allowing dogs in restaurants, has not moved.
HB 4186, which fixes a loophole in the Large Carnivore Act, has not moved.
HB 4471, which gives workplace protections for those who choose to not receive a COVID-18 vaccine, has not moved.