IN the countryside, veterinarians usually take their offices with them, carrying everything from biologics, tranquilizers, antibiotics, tools and X-rays in their mobile rigs.
However, the Drug Enforcement Administration, which enforces the Controlled Substances Act, said it is illegal for registrants to transport controlled substances -- such as medications veterinarians utilize for pain management, anesthesia or euthanasia -- outside their registered locations, which, for veterinarians, are oftentimes their homes or veterinary clinics.
DEA's interpretation of the law is problematic for veterinarians, who need to be able to treat many species of animals in a variety of settings.
"To have the DEA exhibit total ignorance is appalling in how medicine is conducted in livestock," Rep. Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.) said.
He explained that veterinarians already are required to register and be held accountable when they draw narcotics, whether at a facility or from their mobile units.
Schrader, a veterinarian and farmer himself, has been trying to reason with DEA for months by cautioning that the act's implementation was not thoroughly thought out.
In October, he and other bipartisan members of Congress wrote a letter to DEA asking for technical assistance on how to best resolve the situation. Schrader even questioned Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during a hearing at the beginning of March to help find a workable solution for veterinary professionals.
"We've made good-faith attempts to work with the DEA to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and find a sensible solution, but our overtures have fallen on deaf ears," Schrader said. "Therefore, we're moving forward with what any reasonable person would interpret as a commonsense legislative solution to this bureaucratic nonsense."
Schrader introduced the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act of 2013, which will make it legal for veterinarians to transport and dispense medications for pain management, anesthesia and euthanasia that they need to properly care for animal patients in various settings.
"We don't want to make criminals out of an honest vet," Schrader said.
Schrader criticized DEA for being unwilling to listen to a commonsense solution and said the situation highlights the disconnect in government structure today whereby regulations are "so detached from everyday life."
Rep. Ted Yoho (R., Fla.), a co-sponsor of the bill and a fellow veterinarian, added that "this is another example of a well-intentioned regulation getting in the way of highly trained professionals trying to do their jobs efficiently."
Yoho added that the government should enable vets to travel and treat animals and not let their work be "debilitated with bureaucracy."
More than 110 U.S. veterinary medical organizations have signed a statement of support for the legislation.
Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director of the American Veterinary Medical Assn.'s (AVMA) governmental relations division, said, "As Congressmen Schrader and Yoho can attest, being a veterinarian does not start and stop within the walls of the veterinary clinic. Animals come in all shapes and sizes and live and roam in a variety of settings. To provide complete care for their animal patients, veterinarians must have the ability to transport the medications they need beyond their brick-and-mortar clinics."
Schrader said he was able to get the support of some significant co-sponsors, including the two House Agriculture Committee leaders, Reps. Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) and Collin Peterson (D., Minn.). He also worked closely with House Judiciary Committee chair Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.).
"If the DEA doesn't want to get beat up by both Democrats and Republicans, I would suggest that they come up with a regulatory fix," Schrader said, adding that it's a "shame it's come to this degree of rule-making."
As the House begins to mark up its farm bill within the next few weeks, Schrader said that could be a possible vehicle for final passage of his bill, if warranted.
AVMA said it has been actively engaged in helping fix the situation, especially in light of DEA's recent notifications to veterinarians in California and Washington that they are in violation of the law.