“State Regulation of Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Therapies: Defining the Practice of Veterinary Medicine in the 21st Century”

Appearing in KJEANRL Vol. 1 No. 1 this article was written by Milton Toby. The abstract was written by staff member John Hendricks.

State regulations of complementary and alternative veterinary therapies ("CAVT") are in a state of upheaval and change. Part of the difficulty of regulating CVAT is defining CAVT under existing statutes. While the American Veterinary Medical Association ("AVMA") has drafted a Model Veterinary Practice Act ("MVPA"), few states have adopted the definition of CAVT provided in the MVPA or language similar to the MVPA. However, thirteen states have adopted a statutory definition of CVAT. Language contained in state statutes regulating CAVT such as "including but not limited to" likely satisfies the requirements of certainty and provides a method for regulating CAVT not specifically mentioned in a particular statutory definition of CAVT.

Even states that lack references to CAVT in their statutes may still regulate CAVT. The legal reasoning used in People v. Amber, would likely be applicable to veterinary statutes which do not specifically reference CVAT. In that case the court reasoned that "[w]hether actions constitute the practice of medicine is dependent upon the facts and not the name of the procedure, its origins or legislative lack of clairvoyance." If applied to most states veterinary statutes this reasoning would mean that the statute may regulate CAVT without specifically mentioning them and that the failure to mention CAVT would not allow non-veterinarian practitioners to operate unregulated within a state.

While states that do not mention CAVT practices may be able to still regulate the procedures, "Hybrid States", which are states that define veterinary medicine in a broad enough way to include some CAVT practices, may have a more difficult time regulating all CAVT practices. These "hybrid states" raise issues of statutory interpretation which have been examined by few state courts. States that have only included specific enumerated CAVT practices in the definition of "veterinary medicine" have created an inference that non-enumerated CAVT practices do not constitute veterinary medicine.

Six states have also provided specific exemptions from state veterinary regulations for CVAT practices. Many other states provide non-specific exemptions under which CVAT practices may be included. However, the language of these statutes does not make it clear that CVAT practices are exempted. The lack of uniformity and conflicting language among state regulations and the need for uniform guidelines are demonstrated by the confusing and vague exemptions that CVAT practices may fall under.

Ultimately, there is a need for a harm-based system of state regulation of CAVT. In comparing the harm-based system to State v. Norene, the harm that state regulators should attempt to prevent should not be a generalized fear of public harm but a well defined risk. The use of CAVT treatment should not be limited to only licensed veterinarians. Instead licensing and supervision could allow adequately trained individuals to provide CAVT treatments through a uniform and defined statutory scheme. Several methods exist for creating a more reasonable and balanced regulation of CVAT procedures including gaining the animal owners consent, the use of liability insurance, and guaranteeing that licensed individuals are under the direct or indirect supervision of a licensed veterinarian.