When starting a spay neuter program that will not rely on an already existing spay neuter program or private clinic, you need to be familiar with the State Veterinary Practice Act. This can usually be found on the website of your State Veterinary Examining Board.
The veterinary board regulates all veterinary services, and this is true whether the services are operated by a non-profit organization or a private practice. Generally, professional services including veterinary, medical and legal services are regulated by state boards.
While a 1990 Federal Trade Commission decision indicated that non-profits may not be singled out for additional regulation, the decision did not imply that non-profit services can circumvent regulations, which may include that a licensed veterinarian run the program. This is also a time to reach out to your state veterinary medical association as well.
Some examples of laws to pay attention to:
- In some states (including California) certain types of services including M*A*S*H clinics or off-board recovery mobile units are prohibited because of mandatory premise inspections. Yet some states have no premise inspection (unless there is a complaint), but all mandate cleanliness and that safe standards must be adhered to.
- Record keeping mandates, including the number of years for which records must be held and what information must be included, differ from one state to the next, and may even include certain detailed information. This is in addition to federal laws covering controlled drugs.
- Some states mandate that only registered technicians may assist in surgery.
- Some states mandate that certain equipment must be on site or avavilable, including radiograph equipment.
- Some states do not allow certain protocols; for example you may clean surgical instruments using the technique called ‘cold sterilization’ in Oklahoma, but not in neighboring Kansas.
- All states recognize what is called a Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VCPR). This relationship must be in place before veterinary services are rendered to an animal. This means that no one may administer drugs before the pet has been given an exam by a veterinarian who has determined it may have surgery. The VCPR is the basis for all veterinary services rendered to a companion animal.
You can find your State Veterinary Board by typing in the name of your state and the words “veterinary board,” afterward. That should get you there. If you have questions, ask before moving forward. When offering professional services it is NOT BETTER to go ahead and apologize afterward if need be! Sanctions against your veterinarian will stall your program and get folks really upset!