Vet Board pulls rules, seeks fresh start in disputes over animal husbandry
By Patrick B. McGuigan
In the midst of a dispute over what are described as “misinterpretations” of rules centered around farmers and ranchers continuing to care and treat their own animals, and concern for protecting Oklahoma public health and safety, an important state agency has withdrawn proposed rules.
The Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners has voted to withdraw emergency rules requested and signed into law by then-Governor Brad Henry to help define the term “animal husbandry,” in order to clarify who can provide medical services on livestock.
“Since 1913, the Vet Board has never taken action against a farmer, rancher, horseman, nor employees or helpers of livestock producers in treating and caring for their own animals,” Cathy Kirkpatrick, Executive Director of the Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, told CapitolBeatOK.
Kirkpatrick added, “Nothing has changed from decades of how owners can care and treat their own animals. The Board has always supported the rights of Oklahoma farmers and ranchers to treat and care for their own animals and understands that assistance is required by employees, neighbors, friends and family to carry out this task. These provisions of the Veterinary Practice Act were never changed.”
House Bill 3202 amended the Veterinary Practice Act by allowing teeth floating and horseshoeing services to be provided by a certified non-veterinarian equine dental care provider and included animal husbandry under acts not prohibited. The Vet Board’s defenders assert the recent emergency rules attempted to clarify the legislation, by defining what animal husbandry does not include, to help ensure that Oklahoma’s beef supply and livestock have quality care by licensed and trained medical physicians for all procedures that are invasive or surgical in any manner.
However, what many sources characterized as “misinterpretations” of the emergency rules were widely circulated to farmers and ranchers. A lawsuit was filed by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, which claimed animal husbandry provisions allowed invasive reproductive services to be provided by laypersons. Twice, the House Agricultural Committee refused to add reproductive services to HB 3202 because it is considered dangerous and involves invasive procedures.
State Representative Brian Renegar, a McAlester Democrat, commented recently, “There are serious consequences in allowing medically untrained laypersons to perform reproductive services, such as potentially spreading diseases to Oklahomans and other animals. Oklahoma risks being labeled a rogue state that could endanger the economic value of Oklahoma beef and could open Oklahoma for close scrutiny by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on proper acquisition and use of federal-controlled drugs.”
On a national talk show, “Daybreak USA,” Dr. Jim Humphries of the Veterinarian News Network cited Oklahoma for loosening its public health responsibilities. “Oklahoma recently changed animal husbandry that means anyone can perform surgical procedures for a fee. Now this law is being diluted to rabies vaccinations being performed in WalMart parking lots. The layperson claimed to vaccinate over 1,000 animals, and now these animals are not certified as vaccinated.”
Humphries reported that laypersons are advertising on Craig’s List to perform dog ear cropping (a surgical procedure) and laypersons are skirting the law by signing ownership of the animal to the layperson during the surgery, and afterwards, signing back ownership to the animal’s true owner.
State Representative Lee Denney, a Cushing Republican, commented in recent days: “The intent and spirit of the legislation are already being compromised, and we need to close these loops with more restrictive policies to ensure Oklahoma citizens and our livestock are safe from infectious diseases and to ensure drugs are correctly administered.”
Kirkpatrick said the withdrawal of the emergency rules was a good-faith effort to work with legislators and the Oklahoma Farm Bureau by starting with a clean slate.