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Update as of May 05, 2023: All bills governing veterinary telemedicine have failed to pass and move forward during the 2023 Florida legislative session. We will continue to defend the interests of veterinarians and animals by ensuring Florida adheres to the federal definition of VCPR, which protects animals from the chance of misdiagnosis and delayed care.

The FVMA Legislative Advocacy Committee traveled to Tallahassee, FL, on March 14-16 for FVMA’s Legislative Action Days to meet with Florida legislators and discuss bills filed during the 2023 legislative session that could impact veterinary medicine.

Day one consisted of our Legislative Advocacy Committee, along with our members, meeting with our lobbyist group, Converge Public Strategies, to discuss veterinary-related bills and our strategy for the in-person meetings with senators and state representatives scheduled for the following days. This year there were over 1,742 bills filed – 31 of which relate to veterinary medicine – the FVMA, and Converge Public Strategies monitored.

After reviewing these bills and prioritizing our strategy, days two and three consisted of our legislative team meeting with twelve state representatives about bills we are monitoring, with a special focus on two competing bills governing the practice of veterinary telemedicine. We were able to provide the state representatives with the perspective of the veterinary community and how our profession could be impacted by these bills.

Where We Stand

Two bills governing the practice of veterinary telemedicine were introduced in the 2023 Florida legislative session.

The FVMA strongly supports the Senate bill governing veterinary telemedicine,“Medical Treatment of Animals” (SB 554) – sponsored by Joe Gruters – as it lawfully permits the practice of veterinary telemedicine with the proper establishment of a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR). This is defined at the federal level as a relationship that must be founded during at least one in-person examination of the patient.

Used appropriately, telemedicine can be a valuable tool that enhances accessibility to medical treatment and improves continuity of care. However, establishing a VCPR solely through electronic means is not in the best interest of veterinarians or animals as it increases the chance of misdiagnosis and can even result in delayed critical care.

It is primarily through the in-person physical exam of an animal that a veterinarian can gain some familiarity with its true baseline condition and accurately diagnose and treat any ailment. Follow-up care may be conducted via telemedicine, but the initial in-person visit is key.

An interesting comparison can be found in recommendations made by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for the care of infants and toddlers under two years old. Similar to young children, animals cannot speak for themselves and explain what they are feeling.

The AAP suggests that “telemedicine services should not be provided to children under two years of age in their home or other nonclinical setting except when the provider or their surrogate has a previously established in-person relationship with the patient or when the Patient Center Medical Home (PCMH) has referred them for subspecialty consultation.”

Unfortunately, the House version of the veterinary telemedicine bill does not protect VCPR as defined on the federal level and permits the establishment of a VCPR through electronic means under the guise of expanding access to care.

It is our firm position that we should follow the federal definition of VCPR when creating any state bill regulating veterinary telemedicine to ensure there is an understanding of the ongoing care or status of the patient and veterinary patients are protected from misdiagnosis and non-effective or harmful treatments. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA),

“Establishing the federal VCPR requires a physical examination of the animal or timely and medically appropriate visits to the premises where animals are kept. The FDA does not allow the VCPR to be established through electronic means. FDA does allow the VCPR to be maintained electronically through telemedicine. Veterinarians must comply with the federal VCPR in each of the circumstances in which it applies, irrespective of whether state law defines it differently. The federal VCPR also applies in two important, but more limited, circumstances under USDA authorities. Veterinarians who manufacture biological products for use in their patients must do so within the context of the federal VCPR. Veterinarians also must have established a federal VCPR when using prescription platform product biologics, which are a new category of biotechnology vaccines.”

SB 554: Medical Treatment of Animals

GENERAL BILL by Gruters

The “Veterinary Telemedicine Act” redefines the term “patient”, authorizes licensed veterinarians to practice veterinary telemedicine, authorizes a veterinarian practicing telemedicine to order, prescribe, or make available specified medicinal drugs and controlled substances, provides requirements for use of veterinary telemedicine in veterinarian referrals, providing that a supervising veterinarian assumes responsibility for any person working under the veterinarian’s supervision or at his or her direction, etc.

Read More: Understanding Telehealth in Veterinary Medicine

Who We Talked To

While at the Capitol in Tallahassee, the FVMA’s Legislative Advocacy Committee met with:

  • Senator Rosson (D-St. Petersburg)
  • Representative Killebrew (R-Winter Haven)
  • Representative Cassello (D-Boynton Beach)
  • Representative Robinson (R-Bradenton)
  • Representative Nixon (D-Jacksonville)
  • Representative Maggard (R-Zephyrhills)
  • Representative Sirois (R-Merritt Island)
  • Representative Silvers (D-West Palm Beach)
  • Senator Thompson (D-Orlando)

Special thanks to Senator Gruters for sponsoring our language and telehealth bill in the Senate.

Bills We Monitored

HB 1581 / SB 1492 Dog Breeding

Creates a presumption that breeding a female dog is using such a dog for breeding purposes; requires dog breeders to be registered with DACS; requires dog breeders to microchip dogs.

HB 1047 / SB 1300 Offense Against Certain Animals

Prohibits offering or doing violence to police horses or police canines in certain circumstances; increases classification of specified criminal offenses committed against police canines, fire canines, SAR canines, or police horses.

HB 719 / SB 722 Practice of Veterinary Medicine

Exempts certain out-of-state veterinarians who provide specified services under the responsible supervision of a veterinarian licensed in this state from certain regulations governing veterinary medical practice; provides supervising licensed veterinarian is responsible for such services; specifies that such out-of-state veterinarians are ineligible for premises permit.

 
Other bills we watched:

HB 1061 Animal Cremation, HB 381 Cosmetic Animal Testing, SB 518 Public Records/Animals from an Animal Shelter, SB 1600 Medical Treatment of Animals, HB 849 Retail Sale of Domestic Dogs and Cats, SB 932 Animal Welfare, HB 941 Authorization of Restriction Concerning Dogs, and HB 989 Appointment of Courtroom Animal Advocates Dog Breeding.

 

We are grateful for the time and commitment from our lobbyists, Converge Public Strategies, composed of Paul Lowell, Chief Administrative Partner/ Government Relations, and Jonathan Kilman, Founder/ Chairman. We could not have made an impact without them.

Thank you to our Legislative Advocacy Committee Co-chairs Dr. Williams and Dr. Sutliff for your hard work and dedication which extends beyond each legislative session. Our local committee members Dr. Moodoyan and Dr. Steverson for your sacrifice and willingness to represent the veterinarians of this state at the committee briefings in Tallahassee.

References

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2017). Operating Procedures for Pediatric Telehealth. Pediatrics, 140(2). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-1756

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