United States: Rhode Island Proposes Bill To Amend The Veterinary Practice Act

Last Updated: February 10 2016
Article by Nancy E. Halpern, DVM, Esq.

A bill recently introduced in Rhode Island, S2180, would amend that state's veterinary practice act by "allowing non-veterinarians to perform certain husbandry procedures that are commonly performed by owners of animal pets and livestock."

Specifically, amendments provide that the practice of veterinary medicine does not include:

A person who conducts routine vaccinations or testing of poultry or livestock for the purposes of disease control activity under the supervision of an official state or federal agency or department of agriculture.

A person who advises with respect to or performs acts which are livestock management and animal husbandry practices that have been accepted and performed as required by the livestock welfare and care standards advisory council, pursuant to chapter 26 of title 4.

However the law prohibits the use of prescription drugs except by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian, as provided by state and federal law.

While the summary of the proposed bill specifies that it is amending these provisions because they are commonly performed by owners of animals pets . . . it seems clear that the existing and amended laws relate to vaccination or testing of poultry or livestock, or activities related to animal husbandry practices involving livestock.

The amendments seemingly expand diseases a person can routinely vaccinate or test poultry or livestock for disease control purposes beyond pullorum and typhoid, which this section is currently limited to.

However, the law still requires any such vaccination; testing or management practices to be under the supervision of an official or as otherwise permitted by law.

In New Jersey "as long as an individual, knowledgeable about poultry does not represent themselves as a veterinarian they may perform certain poultry husbandry techniques, but may not prescribe treatment or diagnose disease." NJAC 13:44-4.3.

For those who may not be familiar with diseases of poultry, the following is a brief primer about Pullorum and Typhoid, with information available on USDA's website.

Pullorum and Typhoid are diseases of poultry caused by different subtypes of Salmonella enterica.

According to USDA here and here:

Pullorum is an egg-transmitted disease of poultry, caused by Salmonella pullorum, that kills a high proportion (60–80 percent) of baby poultry.

Fowl typhoid is an egg-transmitted disease of poultry, caused by Salmonella gallinarum, that may result in significant mortality in both baby poultry and adult birds.

Pullorum disease, discovered in 1899, is a worldwide disease of chickens. The main reservoirs of infection are the egg-producing organs of the infected hen. Chicks from diseased hens are infected at conception inside the egg.

Pullorum disease will also affect turkeys, ducks, guinea fowl, pheasants, sparrows, quail, bittern, geese, pigeons, doves, parakeets, and canaries. The causative organism, Salmonella pullorum, rarely affects mammals.

Chickens are the natural host of Salmonella Gallinarum, but turkeys and most other domestic and wild fowl are susceptible. Salmonella Gallinarum has been rarely isolated from humans and is of little public health significance.

Prevention of the disease is best obtained through management practices aimed at preventing the introduction of disease into the flock. Disease control is done by testing and eliminating carriers. Eggs and birds should be obtained from flocks free of pullorum disease. Proper sanitation and biosecurity measures must be implemented to reduce the risk of disease introduction through contaminated feed, and other outside sources.

The National Poultry Improvement Plan ("NPIP") is a federal plan started in the early 1930s to coordinate State programs aimed at eliminating pullorum from commercial poultry. NPIP has since implemented other disease programs.

Most states in the NPIP are now considered U.S. Pullorum-Typhoid Clean.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Authors
Nancy E. Halpern, DVM, Esq.
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