Medicine In Your Barn: Veterinarians vs. the DEA

Could an injection involve a trip in the trailer?

Veterinarians are standing their ground against the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The Controlled Substances Act states that controlled substances (such as euthanasia solution and certain sedatives) cannot be carried outside of the veterinary office.

While less of a problem for small-animal vets (although it would prohibit the at-home euthanasia services for pets), it would critically curtail the services your equine veterinarian could provide for your horse in your barn, forcing you to bring the horse to the vet.

To fight this, the American Veterinary Medical Association introduced the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, which would amend the law to allow an exemption to DEA rules to permit veterinarians to carry controlled substances in their vehicles. Bills H.R. 1528 and S. 1171 have gained support and momentum on Capitol Hill, recently passing the Senate. It is now in the hands of the House of Representatives.

According to the AVMA, veterinarians “ability to practice medicine often requires that they be able to provide mobile or ambulatory services. This is particularly important in rural areas and for the care of large animals because it is often not feasible, practical or possible for owners to bring livestock (i.e., cows, pigs, horses, sheep, and goats) to a bricks-and-mortar clinic or hospital.”

So, not only would you have to trailer your horse to your local veterinary hospital for some treatments and for euthanasia, it would also prohibit veterinarians from using these drugs to remove or relocate dangerous wildlife and rescue trapped wildlife, which often must first be sedated.

What does this mean for us?

Without the ability to have euthanasia solution on hand to respond to emergencies, horses will suffer tremendously. Veterinarians also carry controlled substances in order to sedate horses for some procedures, for the safety of the horse, handler and veterinarian. Suturing wounds or calming a colicky horse would be jeopardized if these controlled substances cannot be carried to the barn.

What you can do

It is crucial that your representatives hear from you about this issue. Write a letter or send an email to your Congress representative. You can also weigh in online at:

In your letter, make sure that you identify your name, address and the bill number. Your letter doesn’t need to be long. It could be as simple as:

Dear Member of Congress,

I am asking you to support of the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act bill (H.R. 1528 and S. 1171). The senate recently passed this bill and how it is in your hands.

This bill is critical to the care of our animals. Our veterinarians must be allowed to carry the medications they deem necessary to ensure the highest level of humane and effective veterinary care.

Then sign your name and send it to your representative. Every letter does make a difference, and none of us want to lose the right to treat our horses in the barn.

Article by Contributing Veterinary Editor Grant Miller DVM

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