Specialty/ER Service Interruption

The Hawaii Board of Veterinary Medicine has recently reinterpreted Hawaii’s veterinary practice law and begun rejecting the practice of veterinary sponsorship. This practice previously allowed many out-of-state specialists to share their services with our clients on a short-term or intermittent basis. All of us have benefited from referring our clients to visiting dermatologists, radiologists, surgeons, as well as our few emergency care centers that operate 24/7. This interruption in veterinary sponsorship has limited service hours at emergency clinics and worsened the backlog of surgery cases in Hawaii.

If your clients are being affected, please encourage them to file a complaint with the DCCA and Board of Veterinary Medicine to insist that they must immediately return to honoring the practice of veterinary sponsorship in Hawaii as clearly allowed by HRS 471(2)-5.

Suicide Prevention and Mental Health

Delve into the latest research on suicide and its causes in this conversation on veterinary mental health with experts from the AVMA and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). Learn strategies to promote mental health, prevent suicide, and intervene in a mental health crisis. Come away knowing individual and community risk and protective factors, get guidance on mental health crisis warning signs, and learn how to get help for someone in crisis – vital steps in building healthy communities and supporting our colleagues and peers. A culture of caring offers help and hope to its members—and we all can play a role in building that community.
View webinar here

Veterinarians as COVID-19 Vaccinators

Submitted by the American Veterinary Medical Association

The AVMA has been working hard for the past few months, as veterinarians have been increasingly discussed as needing to be among those able to assist in efforts to vaccinate people against COVID, to have veterinarians specifically included in the declarations under the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), which authorizes the HHS Secretary to issue emergency public health declarations and provides limited immunity from liability to those covered under the act.

As of March 12, 2021, veterinarians and veterinary students are included in the PREP Act:

· It allows veterinarians who are licensed to practice under the law of any state to administer COVID vaccines in any jurisdiction in association with a COVID vaccination effort by a state, local, tribal, or territorial authority or by an institution in which the COVID vaccine is administered.

·        This also applies to veterinarians who have held an active license or certification under the law of any state within the last five years which is inactive, expired or lapsed, as well as veterinary students with appropriate training in administering vaccines. The intent is to include recently retired veterinarians who may want to help.

·        Today’s amendment preempts any state law that would otherwise prohibit veterinarians or veterinary students who are a “qualified person” under the PREP Act from prescribing, dispensing, or administering COVID vaccines or other covered COVID countermeasures.

·        Veterinarians and veterinary students will be afforded liability protections in accordance with the PREP Act and the terms of the amendment. However, specific conditions must be met in order for the authorization to administer the vaccines and the liability protections to apply. These liability protections apply from March 11, 2021, through October 1, 2024.

·        In order for the authorization and liability protections to apply, veterinarians and veterinary students must be participating in association with a COVID vaccination effort by a state, local, tribal, or territorial authority, or by an institution in which the COVID vaccine is administered. Additional specific requirements also must be met, such as having basic certification in CPR, completing the CDC COVID vaccination modules, an observation period, etc. There is a separate section of the declaration that applies to those in the uniformed services and for federal employees, contractors and volunteers when authorized to administer COVID vaccine.

·        While the liability outlined in the PREP Act is broad, it does not apply to willful misconduct, and the federal government does not provide a legal defense in the event that you are sued. Your state may have separate liability protections, along with separate requirements to qualify, and may or may not provide a legal defense. Veterinary malpractice will not likely respond to claims arising from a veterinarian intentionally vaccinating people against COVID.

More information on vaccination volunteer requirements

Sign up for Hawaii’s volunteer Medical Reserve Corps here

PREP Fact Sheet that Includes Veterinarians as Qualified Health Professionals

Federal Requirements for the Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship

The following guidance information has been provided by the AVMA

THE BASICS

The federal government regulates veterinary medicine and animal drugs very differently than it does human health care and drugs intended for human use. This is, in part, because veterinarians are key to maintaining a healthy, safe, and wholesome food supply and because they also play an important role in overseeing the judicious use of antimicrobials in animals. One important difference between human and veterinary medicine is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authority under the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) over the use of animal drugs and human drugs by veterinarians, and the authority to define how a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is established for certain uses of animal and human drugs. [1]

For these uses, FDA has authority to require the keeping of veterinary medical records and to access them at any reasonable time to verify and copy them. [2] Use of animal and human drugs by veterinarians that violates the federal VCPR parameters set forth in the FDCA and its implementing regulations results in the drug being statutorily deemed unsafe for the use and, if in animal feed, the feed is statutorily deemed adulterated. [3] The USDA, which regulates veterinary biological products, also has promulgated rules defining a VCPR using the same language as the FDA. [4]

APPLICATION OF THE FEDERAL VCPR

The federal VCPR applies to any use of an FDA-approved human drug in animals, including over-the-counter (OTC) human drugs. [5] It applies to any use of an FDA-approved animal drug in any manner that differs from its approved labeling (Extra Label Drug Use [6]), such as a different frequency of administration, different dose, different medical indication for its use, different route of administration, or use in a different species. [7] It also applies to the use of compounded drugs by veterinarians [8] and a veterinarian’s authorization of a veterinary feed directive (VFD). [9] All of these are very common occurrences in the day-to-day practice of veterinary medicine.

Establishing the federal VCPR requires a physical examination of the animal or timely and medically appropriate visits to the premises where animals are kept. The FDA does not allow the VCPR to be established through electronic means. [10] FDA does allow the VCPR to be maintained electronically through telemedicine. [11] Veterinarians must comply with the federal VCPR in each of the circumstances in which it applies, irrespective of whether state law defines it differently.

The federal VCPR also applies in two important, but more limited, circumstances under USDA authorities. Veterinarians who manufacture biological products for use in their patients must do so within the context of the federal VCPR. [12] Veterinarians also must have established a federal VCPR when using prescription platform product biologics, which are a new category of biotechnology vaccines. [13]

CONFLICTING STATE AND FEDERAL VCPR DEFINITIONS AND TELEMEDICINE

• Conflicting state and federal VCPR definitions (e.g., states allowing the VCPR to be established electronically) would cause significant confusion. The FDA and USDA have used the same regulatory definition to avoid such confusion.
• Veterinarians must comply with the federal VCPR requirements where they apply, regardless whether state laws are more lax. Activities where the federal VCPR applies are extremely common in day-to-day veterinary practice.
• State law and regulations relating to the establishment of a VCPR that conflict with federal law would also cause telemedicine encounters to be frustrating for many veterinary clients. A veterinarian who has not already established a VCPR that complies with federal requirements (i.e., by conducting an in-person examination/visit) could not even recommend the use of an FDA-approved human OTC product for an animal without violating federal law.
• There are many valuable uses of telemedicine within the parameters of a federal VCPR.

  1. 21 USC 360b; 21 CFR Part 530
  2. 21 CFR 530.5
  3. 21 USC 360b(a)(1), (2), (4) & (5); 21 USC 342(a)
  4. 9 CFR 107.1(a)(1)
  5. 21 USC 360b(a)(5); 21 CFR 530.2; 21 CFR 530.3(a)
  6. https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/resources-you/ins-and-outs-extra-label-drug-use-animals-resource-veterinarians
  7. 21 USC 360b(a)(4); 21 CFR 530.2; 21 CFR 530.3(a)
  8. https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/resources-you/ins-and-outs-extra-label-drug-use-animals-resource-veterinarians#compounding; FDA Draft Guidance for Industry #256
  9. 21 CFR 558.6(b)
  10. FDA letter to the American Veterinary Medical Association, April 6, 2017 – “Therefore, for the purposes of the federal definition, a VCPR cannot be established solely through telemedicine (e.g., photos, videos, or other electronic means that do not involve examination of the animal(s) or timely visits to the premises).”; During the pandemic FDA announced they will temporarily suspend enforcement of the federal VCPR physical exam and premises visit requirements. https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/cvm-gfi-269-enforcement-policy-regarding-federal-vcpr-requirements-facilitate-veterinary. In this announcement FDA reiterated that under normal circumstances – “Given that the Federal VCPR definition requires animal examination and/or medically appropriate and timely visits to the premises where the animal(s) are kept, the Federal VCPR definition cannot be met solely through telemedicine.”
  11. Id. “The regulations do not specifically address the use of telemedicine to maintain an established VCPR. However, based upon the language of the VCPR definition provided above, nothing would prohibit the use of telemedicine (e.g., use of photos, videos, or other electronic means that may be considered virtual) to allow the veterinarian to keep informed and able to make medical judgments regarding the health of the animal(s) and the need for medical treatment between periodic examinations of the animal(s) and/or timely visits to the premises where the animal(s) are being kept.”
  12. 9 CFR 107.1(a)
  13. USDA Veterinary Services Memorandum 800.214

COVID-19 Vaccination Update

The state of Hawaii has indicated veterinarians and their staff are essential health care providers included in Tier 1b of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. To receive more information, fill out the Department of Health survey. The Department of Health will directly contact you to follow up. You may also check their website for updates.

Scam Targeting Licensees

The Professional and Vocational Licensing Division warns of fake calls to Hawaii-registered licensees. These calls have been made with actual Hawaii board phone numbers showing up on Caller ID. A professional or vocational licensee that is under investigation by the department would first be notified in writing from the Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO). RICO will also never ask for private or sensitive information over the telephone.

With any suspicious phone call, licensees are advised to hang up before revealing any personal information and initiate a return phone call by calling a number researched on their own (see https://cca.hawaii.gov/pvl/contact/), to ensure that they are speaking with the actual agency. Read more here.

Microchip Regulation Update

On July 1, 2020, the City and County of Honolulu implemented mandatory microchip identification for cats and dogs over the age of four months. This replaces the City and County of Honolulu’s dog license tag requirement, but does not replace the requirement that cats allowed outdoors have visible identification. Any dog or cat without a microchip who is impounded by Hawaiian Humane Society or taken into custody by an animal rescue nonprofit must have a microchip implanted before release. The microchipping obligation does not apply to private individuals returning lost pets or to veterinary clinics, but we hope you will urge your clients to comply with the law. Clients with a new pet who is already microchipped should be informed that they have 30 days to update the pet’s microchip with their owner information.

In addition, the Hawaiian Humane Society will no longer be updating their microchip registry. Instead, they are recommending that veterinarians help pet owners register their information with the microchip manufacturer or with a free online database such as FoundAnimals.org. Pet owners who have microchips implanted by your clinic also have a legal obligation to register their contact information with an online registry within 30 days. Please do not send microchip information to the Hawaiian Humane Society at this time.

Another provision of the new law requires that any intact dog impounded as stray three times in a 12-month period must be spayed/neutered before the dog can be returned to its owner unless a licensed veterinarian finds the dog is medically unfit for sterilization.

Questions or comments may be directed to the Hawaiian Humane Society at info@hawaiianhumane.org or 356-2200.

Update from Hawaiian Humane Society

July 1 marked the implementation of the most significant overhaul of Oahu’s animal welfare ordinance in 25 years. It made changes in three major areas:

  • Stray animal handling
  • Pet identification
  • Routinely stray dogs

The pet identification provisions are expected to affect the greatest number of pet owners.

FAQs

What law has changed?
Revised Ordinance of Honolulu Chapter 7: Animals and Fowl

How did the rules change regarding stray animal holding?
Hawaiian Humane now has legal custody of any stray dog or cat with microchip identification after five days in its care, down from nine. Dogs wearing a current county license tag still must be held for a minimum of nine days. The kenneling fee for stray animals has increased to $10 per day from $2.50. There is still no kenneling charge for animals reclaimed within 24 hours. This is not a legal requirement, but Hawaiian Humane is urging pet owners who travel, particularly if they will not have email or cell phone access, to list their pet sitter or veterinarian as a secondary contact on their microchip registration in the event that their animal gets lost while they are away.

What are the new rules for pet identification?
All dogs and cats are now required to have microchip identification. Pet cats allowed outdoors are still required to have visible identification. That is highly recommended for dogs, as well, but not legally required.

What if you have a current dog license?
Owner information can still be updated with the City and County of Honolulu. No new dog licenses are being sold and licenses can no longer be renewed.

What about microchip registration?
Clinics that wish to upload microchip information should do so with the manufacturer’s database, not Hawaiian Humane. Hawaiian Humane is no longer maintaining a separate microchip database for Oahu and pet owners are no longer legally required to register their microchips with Hawaiian Humane. Under the new ordinance, pet owners who have microchips implanted have 30 days to register their contact information with the microchip manufacturer or a free online database. Similarly, they have 30 days to update any changes to their contact information or to transfer ownership of a pet.

What does the new law say about routine strays, or “frequent fliers”?
Any dog brought to Hawaiian Humane as stray three times in a 12-month period must be spayed/neutered before the dog can be returned to its owner, unless medically contraindicated. Sterilization services will be offered at the Community Spay/Neuter Center, but owners may request that Hawaiian Humane transfer a dog falling under this requirement to a private veterinary clinic upon confirmation of a spay/neuter appointment.

What do we do if someone brings us a lost pet?
Hawaiian Humane remains the official pet lost and found for Oahu. If you need help identifying the owner of a microchipped pet, call the admissions team at 356-2285.

Paycheck Protection Program Update from AVMA

The AVMA Advocacy team worked very hard to influence and improve the Paycheck Protection Program. The Small Business Administration recently released data on the loans and the uptake by the veterinary profession has been significant. About 56% of veterinary practices took PPP loans totaling an estimated $2.1 Billion, with over 80% of the loans being less than $150,000.  Over 200,000 jobs in veterinary practices have been protected. A blog posting with data and an infographic can be found at https://www.avma.org/blog/covid-19-loans-are-supporting-veterinary-teams-and-patients.

Congress is working on additional legislation that will impact the PPP, which could include retroactive changes.  It is expected to pass before Congress leaves for their August recess.  AVMA is actively seeking measures to ensure favorable tax treatment of PPP loan proceeds, and for a streamlined forgiveness process for loans below $150,000, which would include the vast majority of veterinary PPP loans. We have a Congressional Advocacy Network Action Alert out on the tax treatment of PPP funds that can be found at https://avmacan.avma.org/avma/app/onestep-write-a-letter?0&engagementId=508320.

SARS-CoV-2 Animal Testing

Routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is NOT recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD), National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV), or the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials. Nor is it recommended by key federal agencies, including the CDC and USDA.

Current expert understanding is that SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted person-to-person. There is currently no evidence that animals can transmit this virus to people. In rare instances, people have spread the virus to certain animals.

Veterinarians are strongly encouraged to rule out more common causes for clinical signs in animals before considering testing for SARS-CoV-2. The CDC, USDA, and other federal partners have created guidance, including a table of epidemiological risk factors and clinical features for SARS-CoV-2 in animals to help guide decisions regarding animal testing.

The decision to test an animal should be made collaboratively between the attending veterinarian and local, state, and/or federal public health and animal health officials after careful consideration of this guidance as provided.

AVMA-AAVLD-NASPHV-NASAHO Joint Statement on Animal Testing

Hawaii State Dept of Ag Guidelines on Animal Testing


Labs with SARS-CoV-2 PCR Animal Tests

COVID-19 and Your Pet

Updated April 5, 2020

How to Best Protect Your Pet

  • Stay home and follow social distancing orders from authorities. Studies show COVID-19 is often spread by those who are not yet showing symptoms of disease. Consider yourself infected and take the proper precautions to protect your community.
  • DO NOT take your pet to a veterinary clinic for wellness visits, vaccinations, or elective procedures (such as spay/neuter) that may be safely delayed for a few months.
  • If you are concerned with your pet’s health issue, CALL YOUR VET. Many vets are practicing telemedicine with established and new clients and patients, and will be able to make a tentative diagnosis and prescribe medication over the phone or after an online consult.
  • If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 but do not need to be hospitalized, you can still safely care for your pet. Practice good hygiene practices by washing your hands before and after interacting with your pet, not kissing or sharing food with your pet, and avoiding close contact (hugging, sleeping together). If possible, wear a facemask to reduce your spread of virus particles.

Make a Plan for Your Pet

  • You should identify a family member or friend who can care for your pets if you need to be hospitalized.
  • Have an appropriate carrier/crate for each pet, and enough food, medication, and supplies for at least two weeks.
  • Ensure all medications are documented with dosages and administering directions. Including the prescription from your veterinarian is ideal.
  • Pets should have identification: Collar with ID tag and microchip.

COVID-19 and Pets

  • Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.
  • If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking, feeding, and playing. You should continue to practice good hygiene during those interactions (e.g., wash hands before and after interacting with your pet; ensure your pet is kept well-groomed; regularly clean your pet’s food and water bowls, bedding material, and toys).
  • Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or must care for your pet, wear a cloth facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.

CDC Recommends Cloth Facemasks

CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The cloth face coverings recommended are NOT surgical masks or N-95 respirators.  Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

CDC: How to Protect Yourself
CDC: Info on Cloth Masks

General information about COVID-19:

  • The betacoronavirus that causes COVID-19 is SARS-CoV-2 (formerly 2019-nCoV).
  • Person-to-person and community spread has been reported in numerous countries, including the United States.
  • Transmission primarily occurs when there is contact with an infected person’s bodily secretions, such as saliva or mucus droplets in a cough or sneeze. Transmission via touching a contaminated surface or object (i.e., a fomite) and then touching the mouth, nose, or possibly eyes is also possible, but appears to be a secondary route. Smooth (non-porous) surfaces (e.g., countertops, door knobs) transmit viruses better than porous materials (e.g., paper money, pet fur) because porous, especially fibrous, materials absorb and trap the pathogen (virus), making it harder to contract through simple touch.
  • There are currently no antiviral drugs recommended or licensed by FDA to treat COVID-19, and there is no immunization available. 
  • Cases of COVID-19 and community spread are being reported in most states.
  • The best way to avoid becoming ill is to avoid exposure to the virus. Taking typical preventive actions is key.

Have Any Pets Been Infected with COVID-19?

On April 5th, the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories has confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in one tiger at a zoo in New York. Read full USDA article.

While two dogs (Hong Kong) and two cats (one in Belgium and one in Hong Kong) living with people diagnosed with COVID-19 have also been reported to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, other dogs and cats also living with infected people remain uninfected. To date the CDC has not received any reports of pets or livestock becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States. Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations continue to agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that, under natural conditions, pets spread COVID-19 to people. To date, all animal cases have had no or mild symptoms that resolved with supportive care.

Because the situation is ever-evolving, public and animal health officials may decide to test certain animals out of an abundance of caution. The decision to test will be made collaboratively between local, state, and federal animal and public health officials. After the decision is made to test, state animal health officials will designate a state-appointed veterinarian, USDA-accredited veterinarian, or foreign animal disease diagnostician to collect the sample using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and sample collection methods.

Again, current expert understanding is that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted person-to-person. This supports a recommendation against testing of pets for SARS-CoV-2, except by official order. If dogs or cats present with respiratory signs, veterinarians should test for more common respiratory pathogens.

Pets in homes with owners with COVID-19: Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19, out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. If you are ill with COVID-19 have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a cloth facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet or service animal. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. Additional guidance on managing pets in homes where people are sick with COVID-19 is available from the CDC.

Keeping pets safe: For responsible pet owners, preparing in advance is key. Make sure you have an emergency kit prepared, with at least two weeks’ worth of your pet’s food and any needed medications. Usually we think about emergency kits like this in terms of what might be needed for an evacuation, but it’s also good to have one prepared in the case of quarantine or self-isolation when you cannot leave your home.

While we are recommending these as good practices, it is important to remember that, to date, there have not been any reports of pets or other animals becoming ill with SARS-CoV-2, and there is currently no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19 to other animals, including people.

Should any animal showing signs of respiratory illness be tested?

USDA and CDC do not recommend routine testing of animals for this virus. Because the situation is ever-evolving, public and animal health officials may decide to test certain animals out of an abundance of caution. The decision to test will be made collaboratively between local, state or federal public and animal health officials.

Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick from coronavirus (COVID-19)?

You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would with other people. Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets. More information is available on how to keep people and animals safe at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html.

What should I do if I think my animal has the virus?

Call your veterinary clinic with any questions about your animal’s health. In order to ensure the veterinary clinic is prepared for the household animal, the owner should call ahead and arrange the hospital or clinic visit. Make sure to tell your veterinarian if your animal was exposed a person sick with COVID-19, and if your animal is showing any signs of illness. Veterinarians who believe an animal should be tested will contact state animal health officials, who will work with public and animal health authorities to decide whether samples should be collected and tested.