Veterinary Bill Sparks Debate in Subcommittee Meeting

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The Senate Agricultural Subcommittee meeting was packed Wednesday with people wanting to voice their opinions on Senate Bill 687, known as "The Vet Bill."

The measure outlines record-keeping guidelines specific to animal shelters and clinics,including prescription drug record and labeling guidelines, the scope of service they can provide, rules for mobile vet clinics, as well as provisions for people who seek low cost veterinary clinics.

"The bill in its present form demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the animal welfare field," Joe Elmore, the CEO of the Charleston Animal Society, told senators during the hearing.

Senator Paul Campbell says animal welfare advocates agree with some parts of the proposal. He tells News19, "It looks like everyone is in agreement on tracking medication, making sure that surgeries are done by veterinarians, making sure that veterinary practices are followed in the shelters."

But some veterinarians are concerned that some animals are not getting the care they need from a licensed veterinarian. Dr. Mary Keisler has been a vet for 30 years, and says the bill is trying to make sure that pets get the proper treatment. "When I see these pets come in that haven't been treated properly, by well-meaning but non- veterinarians, I want to assure that the public is being protected and that their animals are being protected"

Keisler says tracking medical records of animals serviced in low cost and non-profit clinics is key.

A key point of debate is the proposal to require mobile clinics to park at at least seven miles from a vet's office. "The only thing we ask them don't park across the street from our animal hospitals," Keisler says.

Opponents are concerned this will limit their ability to offer help to under-served areas. Marguerite Willis is an anti-trust attorney and pet lover, who said she thinks the bill stifles competition and the free marketplace. "I believe the bill is anti-competitive, harmful to citizens, and just plain bad for business."

The bill also states an individual would have to make less than $11, 770 a year to get care for their pet at low cost or non-profit clinics. Opponents are concerned about that would leave those in the middle income bracket in a bind when it comes to paying for veterinarian services.

More than 30 people signed up to speak, but only 10 were able to before the meeting adjourned..

"This bill has created as much concern and interest I've had since I've been here in eight years, and it's because people do care about animals and they care about them on both sides of the issue," Campbell says.

With only eight days left in this session, the bill is not expected to make it out of subcommittee. Senators say it will undoubtedly be tweaked; for instance, the seven mile rule is likely to change. They say if it doesn't make it to full committee this session, they will pick it back up next session.

Here is the link to the full bill if you would like to read it: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess121_2015-2016/bills/687.htm


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