The MVPA Is An Old Advisor

You may have heard about the Model Veterinary Practice Act (MVPA). Many horse people think it’s a proposed law that will make non-traditional practices like equine massage, dentistry and work by equine herbalists illegal. It’s daunting to contemplate that anything could curtail your choices about your horse’s healthcare, but that’s not likely going to be due to the MVPA.

What It Is
The MVPA is a document put out by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) that is designed to be a template for lawmakers. Basically, when states are looking for ways to legislate veterinary matters, the MVPA gives them a place to begin.

The MVPA is not new, as it was first adopted in 1964. The current MVPA was approved in 1996-97, and the draft now under discussion is a proposed revision of that document.

Sharon Granskog, who handles public relations for the AVMA, emphasizes that the MVPA is not now, nor has it ever been, a legal document. The practice of veterinary medicine is governed state-by-state, according to that state’s practice act, which regulates veterinary medicine within any given state.

Each state’s veterinary regulatory board adopts rules as prescribed by its practice act and other state laws to further define the rules governing veterinary practice. This means that the state board is the regulatory agency, not the AVMA. If you have a complaint or question about veterinary practice in your particular state, you should go to your state board.

Then Why The Worry’
The worry over the MVPA draft concerns certain segments, like Section 22, which says any person who practices veterinary medicine without a valid license or temporary permit issued by the state board could be found guilty of a criminal offense.

Some people interpret passages like these as attempts to make laws against alternative medicine. They argue that such laws could even apply to practices such as massage and equine dentistry, since many of the professionals who practice these aren’t licensed veterinarians.

Delaware horsewoman Susan R. Ajamian and Washington (state) animal behaviorist Mary Ann Simonds wrote a press release to heighten awareness about the MVPA. Ajamian says that she fears that when it comes time for the states to review their veterinary practice acts, they may simply adopt the MVPA without gathering adequate input from differing viewpoints. The AVMA does not represent non-veterinarian animal-health practitioners and, Ajamian believes, holistic veterinarians who may refer clients to holistic non-veterinarian practitioners may not agree with the MVPA draft’s recommendations.

She’s concerned that even traditional veterinarians will object to one part of the MVPA that requires that if veterinarians ’prescribe’ they must ’supervise’ any therapy by a licensed healthcare practitioner. This, she fears, could put the veterinarian in a position of either denying care a client wants, or taking on responsibility for care the veterinarian isn’t trained to evaluate or supervise.

Ajamian and Simonds’ press release says, for example, that animal owners who buy herbs or joint supplements from a catalog, consult an animal-behavior expert, nutritionist or animal communicator or use a therapeutic massage practitioner may not be able to access these professional services except through a licensed veterinarian, as the MVPA would establish a situation in which trained non-veterinarian professionals risk being prosecuted if they provide needed services for ailing pets.

Nelson R. Schreiber, who is the legal administrator for the horse massage group Equissage, Inc., in Virginia also has concerns about the MVPA. He points out the arbitrary nature of some of the points, such as the omission of farriery, which, as he says, is often more invasive than massage. He said some states, like Pennsylvania, have already declared massage part of the grooming process instead of being included under the rubric of animal husbandry. But he’s not too concerned, adding that if the MVPA does get passed in some states, he thinks it may be ’viewed and enforced the way jaywalking statutes are viewed and enforced now.’

Still A Draft
Dr. David Foley, the executive director of the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners), says that since AAEP has not been asked specifically to review or render an opinion on the revised version of the AVMA’s Model Acts, the AAEP doesn’t have an official opinion at this time.

However, Foley also emphasizes that veterinary medicine is governed state-by-state, and the MVPA is one of many resources that a state veterinary regulatory board may use for guidance and recommendations.

The AVMA posted a draft of the MVPA on its website ( and took comments on that draft from January 15 to March 15. The draft document won’t be final until it’s sent to the AVMA Executive Board later this year and the Executive Board approves it.

We believe your wisest course of action is to keep an eye on your own state’s legislature and speak up if you hear of proposed laws that affect your horse’s healthcare. As you know from our previous articles on the status of joint nutraceuticals, some individual states have regulated those sales within their borders.

Also With This Article
Click here to view ”AVMA Policy on Alternative Medicine.”

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