Senate Agriculture Committee
Feb. 14, 2023
Sen Caldwell: Morning. Call this meeting of the Senate Agri Forestry & Economic Development Committee to order. We have a couple of bills today, if you would please silence your phones. I’m going to sit here and say that I’ll probably have mine go off. Senator Stone, if you’d go to the end of the table, like to introduce your bill, sir. If you would please state your name for the record and you are recognized.
Sen Stone: Matt Stone, Senate District 2. Mr. Chairman, members, I have a bill to run that’s going to address the problem when a track of timber is sold in the state of Arkansas.
Sen Caldwell: Let me interrupt just a moment and state that it is Senate Bill 246.
Sen Stone: Yes, sir. Senate Bill 246, I’m sorry.
Sen Caldwell: Okay. You’re recognized, go ahead.
Sen Stone: Currently in Arkansas, if you can get 60% of the signatures, you can cut a track of timber as long as you make a diligent effort to locate the locate the unknown or unlocatable heirs that may own an interest in the property. But there’s a loophole in the law that if while you’re doing your due diligence. If you locate one of the unknown or unlocatable heirs, if they decide that they do not want to cut the timber, then they can block a timber sale. So, someone that has a, as a little as a 1% or 2% interest can block a timber sale. And what that does, it denies the other land owners who own the timber income from their timber land. It costs the state of Arkansas severance tax that they’re not allowed to collect. It also stops the state of Arkansas from collecting capital gains tax on the land owners who live within the state.
This would get it to where if you make due diligence to present all the known or unknown heirs, at least have an opportunity to accept or reject the timber contract, if you can secure at least 60% of those heirs you can go ahead and cut the timber. You still have to pay the other people and their money’s not taken from them. The locatable heirs are paid whether they want to sell or not. And then, the unlocatable heirs, their money is deposited in the county where the property is located. And if and when they’re located they can come forward and pick it up.
Sen Caldwell: Questions from the Committee? No questions. Senator Leding.
Sen Leding: When the funds for the unknown heirs are deposited in the county where the property is, does it just sit there forever? Is the county able to access it?
Sen Stone: It sits there for five years, if no one claims it, it is teased back to the county.
Sen Leding: Okay.
Sen Caldwell: Anyone here speak for or against this bill? You closed for your bill?
Sen Stone: One other item of note. I’ve also talked to the Arkansas Forestry Association and also the Arkansas Timber Producers Association, they’ve read the bill and looked at it and they’re good with it also.
Sen Caldwell: Okay. Is there a motion do pass? Is there a second? I have a second. All in favor say, aye. Congratulations, bill passed.
Sen Stone: Thank you.
Sen Caldwell: Representative Vaught. I mean, Senator Hill, are you here?
Sen Hill: Yes, sir.
Sen Caldwell: Are you going to pass on Senate Bill 5?
Sen Hill: Yes.
Sen Caldwell: You told me that, I just want to put that on the record.
Sen Hill: That is correct, yes.
Sen Caldwell: Okay. Committee, we’re looking at House Bill 1182. If you would please state your name for the record and you’re recognized to present your bill.
Sen Hill: Senator Ricky Hill.
Sen Caldwell: Your mic’s not on, Senator. There you go, thank you.
Sen Hill: Senator Ricky Hill, District 11.
Rep Vaught: I’m Representative Vaught, District 87.
Sen Caldwell: Okay. You’re recognized.
Sen Hill: Mr. Chair, you should have an amendment that should be here any moment, if you don’t have it. It’s not here yet. They’re supposed to be bringing it.
Sen Caldwell: Okay.
Sen Hill: We’ll cover that in a second.
Sen Caldwell: Okay.
Sen Hill: I’mma go ahead and kind of start this out basically by saying, what a great turnout we have today for the Ag Committee. I love this, how much more could we ask for? Trying to do the things to serve the people of Arkansas. And we got a lot of people here to speak for and against this bill, so that’s what America is all about in the State of Arkansas.
Sen Caldwell: I will state that I have a 12:15 meeting today, so hopefully we’ll be through by then.
Sen Hill: Do you need my phone to cancel? Like I said, but there is an amendment coming on this, it should be here in a moment. And I’ll let Representative Vaught present that when it gets here, but I’m going to go ahead and start if that’s okay with you.
Sen Caldwell: Go ahead, you’re recognized.
Sen Hill: Making some introductory comments and I’m going to let her explain the bill.
Sen Caldwell: Okay.
Sen Hill: This is HB 1182, which is the Vet Tech Specialist Bill, which I personally consider this to be a, move veterinarian medicine to the 21st century bill myself, to try to get them a little bit more in line with way we do other business in other industries. Arkansas has a shortage of veterinarians, especially our large animal vets. And we have an abundance of livestock producers who need good quality care for their animals. Unfortunately, there are not enough new veterinarians coming out of veterinary school, going into veterinary medicine in the State of Arkansas. Granted we do have two schools online to have veterinarian medicine in the future, but we’re looking at 8, 10, 12 years away on that. Our veterinarians need assistance now, not 12 years from now.
We are in a state of emergency for veterinarians, their services in Arkansas. That is why we started the Vet Tech Program back in 2019, in which the Veterinary Board and all the veterinarians fought us on that one. I have never been here in five years that the veterinarians have not fought everything that’s come before this Committee. And I’ve served on this Committee for four years, so I want you just to keep that in mind. They fought us on the Vet Tech Program back when we started it and they’re fighting us now for continuing.
The veterinary techs can only be obtained after two years of education and five years of working currently under someone. So, you’re looking at 7 to 9 years experience for a specialist, which we do not have any specialists currently in the State of Arkansas. I’m gonna throw some figures out to you. We have roughly 420 veterinarians in the State of Arkansas. And that’s figuring 14 for 100,000 people which is what Arkansas Business showed back in April of 2022 I believe it was. We have 1,700,000 cattle. 168,000 horses. 1,095,000 dogs, 810,000 cats, and 420 veterinarians. If you figure that out, that is roughly in the overall figure you’re looking at 53, 179 square miles in the State of Arkansas. We have a veterinarian for every 126 miles.
If you take the populated areas of the state out that number is even greater. if you take out Northwest Arkansas, Pulaski County, where the population is, that number is greater. You go between Little Rock, Arkansas Memphis, Tennessee, there are three veterinarians on Interstate 40. You go from Hazen, Arkansas to Memphis there’s one. That tells you there’s a shortage, especially in the Delta area, the economic area that needs help. That’s where we’re suffering. The citizens in those areas are suffering. Their animals are paying the ultimate sacrifice because of lack of veterinarians. And the humaneness that we must have from them is being left behind by greed by not wanting these specialists and the technicians to go forward and do their career. We’ve got to do something about that, folks.
There are actually 157 active vet techs in the State of Arkansas, that is all. We passed the programs. Arkansas State University has a program, they’re turning students out yearly on that. And in 2019, we passed the Vet Tech Bill in Arkansas to relieve some of the workload on our veterinarians, and to help our farmers and ranchers. If we are not going to allow growth in this vet tech industry, why did we pass it to start with? We’re limiting these people’s ability to earn a living, to do more than what they can do. I am passionate about this. I’m not just any jackleg guy sitting down here. I’ve got 200 head of cow, 6 performing horses, four dogs, a cat and a rabbit.
So, I actually think I am well versed in this area. So, you asked, what is this about? Ask yourself the five Ws. Who? What? When? Where and Why? Who needs this? The animal owners in Arkansas, especially in the economically challenged areas. That’s the area I want us to keep focusing on. It’s not the Northwest, Arkansas or Pulaski County, it’s these other areas that are underserved. What? What do they need? They need veterinarian services at competitive rates. And when you have a veterinarian traveling 126 miles to get there, you’re not getting that service.
We need these techs who can go out to these farms, make the calls, relay the messages back to the veterinarian, who’s in his office taking care of emergency cases. So, we need them to work them together on this. When do we need it? We need it now. We don’t need it 8 years from now, we don’t need it 10 years from now, we need it now. This is a state of emergency in Arkansas. We just got over the COVID emergency, now we’re in the veterinarian emergency. Let’s think about this and let’s think about the people, the consumers of the state, not just an industry who’s wanting to line their back pockets. Where do we need it at the most? We need it in the eastern part of the state, in the Delta, the southern part of the state, the Southwest part of the state, that’s where we need it at, all over.
Why do we need it? Is to improve animal health and consumer demand, and the consumer’s demand. This bill is not for everyone. If you’re a veterinarian and you do not want to do this, you have the right to opt out. We’re not forcing you to do anything. If you don’t like it, don’t do it, but don’t limit those who want to do it. Let’s think about the veterinarians who need the help, who are aggressive, who will work past five o’ clock, who work on into the night. Let’s think about those veterinarians. They’re the ones that need the help, the 9 to 5ers, they don’t need the help, they’re drawing a paycheck. I want this to be for the individual who’s out here hustling, trying to make a living, trying to take care of the cattleman, the horsemen in this State of Arkansas, those are the guys I’m looking at to try to help.
I’m not trying to help the poultry farmers, they’ve got their own veterinarians that they use. I’m looking at our livestock producers who we are failing in this state. And I think that’s a total embarrassment for us to be failing our livestock producers. With that being said, I’m gonna turn it over to Senator Vaught, she won’t be quite as passionate as I am about it, but I’ll let her go through the bill.
Rep Vaught: And I don’t want to be a Senator, I’m definitely a Representative. And I do believe that our amendment is here. I don’t know if the Senate could handle myself and Senator Hill.
Sen Caldwell: Yeah. We may have to have more copies made. I don’t know how many copies they brought. We may have to have more copies made. I will have additional copies coming in. This is a fairly complicated of an amendment to read into the bill.
Rep Vaught: It’s not that complicated.
Sen Hill: Senator Caldwell, if you would allow her to explain it to you. It’s not going to be near as complicated as it sounds.
Rep Vaught: It sounds.
Sen Caldwell: You’re recognized.
Rep Vaught: Thank you, sir. So, after much deliberation over the last few days and talking over the last few days, I’m now waving a white flag and giving the Veterinary Board exactly what they want. So, if they come speak against it now, I’ll be very disappointed in any vet that comes and speaks against this after I’m conceding to them. So, this takes away all prescriptive authority. There will not be any prescriptive authority left in the bill. That’s why there’s so many lines is because of that. It was a piece in there that I actually overlooked on my end that was the compensation part. That is now retracted and gone, that is no longer in there either. And where it said on your page-
Sen Caldwell: Are you on the amendment or the bill?
Rep Vaught: Yes sir, I am. It is part of the amendment.
Sen Caldwell: That’s fine. When you started calling pages I wanted to be sure.
Rep Vaught: In your amendment it’s, it would be on your page 6, and it says, “excluding major abdominal,” and I’m taking out major. And this is everything that was brought to me that they were against and wanted to be fixed on the bill. So, that is me waving a white flag trying to be open minded even though I–
Sen Caldwell: Let me restate for the Committee.
Rep Vaught: Yes, sir.
Sen Caldwell: It’s on amendment page 2.
Rep Vaught: Yes, sir.
Sen Caldwell: Middle of the page where it says page 6.
Rep Vaught: Yes, sir.
Sen Caldwell: That’s what I was asking you. Okay.
Rep Vaught: Sorry about that.
Sen Caldwell: That’s okay.
Rep Vaught: I didn’t see it on here, that’s why I alluded to page 6.
Sen Caldwell: Yeah. Yeah.
Rep Vaught: But with that, I would appreciate a good vote on the amendment.
Sen Caldwell: Okay, we’ve heard the amendment Is there any discussion? Any questions on the amendment? No. Or we’ve got a question, Senator Wallace. Senator Stone?
Sen Stone: So, you’re saying that the vet tech specialists will not be able to prescribe medicine at all?
Rep Vaught: Correct.
Sen Stone: Or perform any kind of surgery?
Rep Vaught: They won’t be able to do anything that they can’t already do, sir.
Sen Stone: Okay. Thank you.
Sen Caldwell: Okay, the staff brought in additional copies of the amendment, anyone else that wants one please raise your hand. We’ve got plenty, so if you would raise your hand we’ll get them out to you. Okay, Senator Wallace, you have a motion? Do pass on the amendment only. Second? Second. All in favor of the amendment say, aye. Amendment passes. I want to take a 10 minute recess, so that everyone in here can see the amendment and understand it the way that you do. And it right now is 10:19, 10:20, 10:30 we’ll come back into order. Let’s take a 10 minute recess.
Sen Caldwell: Okay. Members, we’ll come back into order. We’ve given 10 minutes to look over the amendment. Representative Vaught, I’ll let you continue with your bill.
Rep Vaught: Thank you, Mr. Chair. So, if you’ll look. Hopefully, you’ll be able to go along and I’m going to try to keep up also with my amendment and how it goes. But we’re going to do is still have a collaborative practice agreement that’s a written plan that identifies a veterinarian and a veterinarian technician specialist who agreed to a collaborative together, in a joint management and of the health of the animal, the veterinarian’s animal.
And it’s important that you remember this animal is always in the care of the veterinarian. Even if they have a vet tech specialist that’s taking care of the animal, at the end it’s still the vet who is responsible for the animal. So, say a vet hires, they can only have three, and I’ll get to that in a second. But say they hire three, that vet is still over those technician specialists and directs what they need to do to an animal.
So, I always equate it back to my daughter’s a physical therapist. She has PTAs up underneath her. The buck stops with her every time, no matter what it stops with her. She’s the one who makes sure that the patient’s being taken care of correctly, and that the, what care is being given is what she has directed. If you’ll look on the next page, somebody said–
Sen Caldwell: Wait a minute. We have an amendment and a bill. What page number?
Rep Vaught: Two. So, I’ll be in the bill and–
Sen Caldwell: You’re in the bill.
Rep Vaught: I’m in the bill.
Sen Caldwell: On page 2.
Rep Vaught: Isn’t that what I was told? I’m sorry.
Sen Caldwell: That’s fine.
Rep Vaught: Okay, I’m making sure.
Sen Caldwell: But you said, “The next page.”
Rep Vaught: I’m sorry, so sorry.
Sen Caldwell: And that’s not descriptive enough, so we just want everybody–
Rep Vaught: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Sen Caldwell: I want everybody to be on–
Rep Vaught: I’ll be reading from the bill actually.
Sen Caldwell: Okay. Page 2?
Rep Vaught: Yes sir.
Sen Caldwell: Thank you.
Rep Vaught: I’ve never done that before like read straight from the bill, but I felt like when we were on our end it was the first time some people had even heard the bill or read the bill themselves. So, if you look on Section 2, we’re adding back the veterinary technician specialist back there. And it was kind of an oversight on our, on my part, and I apologize. So, that was one thing that was asked would be that that would be added back to the bill, so that’s being added back to the bill. And this means that they cannot receive any fee other than what the veterinarian pays them. So before I actually had a boo-boo that would have allowed them to take money from the actual client. This strips that that back and they can no longer get compensation from the client.
So, if you just drop down a little bit further, some people said, you know, they asked what the vet tech, how they keep up with their hours and stuff like that. So, it’s quite difficult to even get this vet technician specialist certificate. It’s a two year program, but then it’s five years underneath somebody. So, it’s not like, Oh, I’m going to graduate from school and I’m going to immediately start doing A, B, C, D, E, F, G. It’s five years that they are actually in practice next to a veterinarian, which is, I think, important because a lot of people, you can be book smart, but it’s nice if you can learn from somebody and watch them, and have them guide you hands on.
So, I think that’s a good aspect that we have in the, in this program. But they also have to do eight continuing, advanced continuing hours. So, they have hours that they have to keep up also. I’m on Education Committee, so I would consider that to be PD, that they have to do that keeps up with their certificate. ‘A veterinarian technician specialist may maintain an active veterinarian technician certificate in the state and fulfill all continuing education hours that’s required by them.’ To stay certified they have to continue all of that.
So, we took out all the prescriptive authority, so all of that is now gone out of the bill. So, that took quite a bit of the lines off of page 4 and 5 just so you know. ‘A vet tech specialist shall perform specialized veterinary technology under the direct, direction, supervision, and responsibility of the licensed veterinarian of whom they are employed under.’
If you drop down to the bottom of this page, because someone was– I know that several emails alluded to, Well, the vet is the one who can be sued and the vet is the one who can get in trouble. It was kind of the same way with nurse practitioners. It stopped with the doctor just so you know, but we put some language in here that should help, even make sure that no one goes rogue. If you’ll look down to line 32 on page 3, ‘A licensed veterinarian using supervision or employing a veterinarian technician specialist is individually responsible and liable for the performance of the acts and omissions delegated to the veterinarian technician specialist.’ This is important because we will not have rogue veterinarians out there that are hiring vet techs and allowing them to just do whatever, because it’s actually their license that’s on the line. So, I think that’s important because it’s what I would consider a safeguard in the bill.
But it does not let the vet tech specialists off the hook. If you go down to line 2 this is a, this subsection does not relieve a veterinarian technician specialist of any responsibilities or liabilities of any of his or her acts and omissions. So, they’re just as responsible as the vet. Now then, it was brought to my attention, maybe we should give the Veterinary Medical Examining Board a little bit of teeth. So that they could actually go after rogue players out there who might would not follow the law or the intent of the law. And I told Representative Beaty I was good with that. If he wanted help with that bill I would help him with that bill because I think that is a good idea to have, because it would keep everybody honest, all right. So, on that same page line 4, line 3, ‘A licensed veterinarian shall not,’ again, ‘A licensed veterinarian shall not establish a separate office or clinic other than his or her regular office, and place a separate office or clinic under the control or the supervision of veterinarian technician specialist.
So, some emails were like, Oh, we’re going to have these pop up everywhere– it’s going to be just flooded. And it’s not going to be. As you can see, it is very safeguarded, it says, ‘In their regular office.’ So, I do have one vet that has a regular office in two counties, by they have already established clinics. They’ve been there forever and it’s one guy, and he goes back and forth between counties because he’s the only one in two counties. So he had to have an office in both of them because of that. So, he could actually have somebody over in that office that’s already established, but we’re not going to be popping them up everywhere. Let’s see, if you drop down to line 18, page 4, ‘A veterinarian shall not enter into a collaborative practice agreement with more than three veterinary technicians specialists at one time.’
So, again, as you can see, it’s very tight. They can only have three, we’re not allowing them to have 10, 15, 20, and we’re not allowing them to pop these places up everywhere. And also, the vet tech specialist cannot hang their own shingle because they have to be in this collaboration with this veterinarian. If there’s a complaint in the field, so there is a place to go. If a collaborative practice results in a complaint, and if you’ll go over to the top of page 5, ‘Violations of this chapter. The Veterinary Medical Examining Board may review the roll of the collaborating veterinarian or the veterinarian technician specialist in the collaborative practice to determine if the collaborating veterinarian, or the veterinarian technician specialist is unable to manage his or her responsibilities under the collaborative practice agreement, without any adverse effects on the quality of care of the animal patient.’
One thing that I thought was so important about this is quality of care. We have large animals, we have a dairy. As of June 30th, of course we all that all these drugs that we could use before that we could go down to the Co-op and get, we’ll no longer to be able to get because of the feds, right? So, if I have a cow go down in Horatio, Arkansas with milk fever, and my vet is actually in say Mena, Arkansas. I can tell you my cow is dying. There’s no two ways about it, she will die. Quality of care for these animals is what is so important to me. I love animals. There’s a reason I have an Ag Business degree, it’s because I loved animals. And I want to make sure that our farmers have the quality of care they deserve for their animals, so this will help with that also, this bill helps with that.
And again, if we want to go back and give the Veterinary Medical Examining Board teeth, where they can fine people who are rogue players, I’m good with that. It’s not in this bill, it’s not part of this bill, but it’s something that can be written. And now you’ll see all of the language through here will be gone, that 11, or 10 through 22. So, let’s go down to line 30 and we’ll be talking about the relationship of the animal. ‘Establish care for a new animal patient by forming a preliminary veterinarian-client-patient relationship.’ So, it’s important that we have those important collaborating relationships. I know this is one thing I did not give. So 15 days was a compromise to me. The veterinarians wanted seven days and the vet techs wanted 30 days. I split the difference and said, You’ve got 15 days to establish that, because I felt like it was good middle ground there, and I thought it was a good compromise on both sides.
So, they’ve got 15 days. It says, the collaborating veterinarians shall complete the veterinarian-client-patient relationship by personally seeing the animal patient within 15 days. That could be just come back, have them bring the animal back up, or Hey, I’m doing my routes, out and about, let me run by their house and see if I can’t see that animal real quick. We took out, on line 6 we took out “major,” that’s something that was asked to happen, so we took out the word “major” on line 6. So now it says, performing minor dental and surgical procedures on animal patients excluding abdominal, thoric, or orthopedic surgery, and neurosurgery. They can administer a drug or controlled substance to prevent suffering of animal patient including without limitations euthanasia under direct communication with a collaborating vet.
So, they’re not doing this rogue, they’ve got to talk to the vet, it’s got to be a collaborating between the two of them that that’s what needs to take place. The next part we took out prescription. Oh, I will say though, let me go back to line 14 because that’s another safeguard. They can’t do any of those things up above if it conflicts with state or federal law. So, someone might say, Oh, well, they’re going to start doing this, not if it conflicts with state or federal law, it’s in the bill. On the next one we took out, on line 15 we took out prescribes, so not it’s just dispense and administer medicines or therapeutic devices for animals except when it conflicts with state or federal law. If you’ll look on line 26 of page 6, they also have to inform, give the client that says, Hey, I’m not a vet, so they’re informed by consent with a letter that says, Hey, I’m not a vet, can I still work on your animal? So, just so you know.
And then, the one thing that everybody really loved was we give back rabies back to them where they can actually do the rabies. Because I understand that something was passed where they could no longer administer the rabies shots vaccines. And with that I’ll take any questions. I’ll do my best to answer.
Sen Caldwell: Committee?
Sen Hill: I’m ready for questions, Mr. Chair.
Sen Caldwell: Senator Dees.
Sen Dees: Quick question on some notes that I’ve received on vet tech specialists certification process. So, I think I’ve heard today and throughout my research on this conflicting information. And I’ve heard everything from its four years plus five years under a vet, plus service hours and different things. But the least I’ve heard is a two year online certification and could be under this process. And that scares me if that is true.
Rep Vaught: That’s not true.
Sen Dees: Okay.
Rep Vaught: I’m going to give it to the young lady that’s about to speak and you can ask her those questions.
Sen Dees: Sure. Okay, perfect. We can wait then.
Rep Vaught: She can answer it and she’s about to take her test.
Sen Dees: Perfect, okay. Thank you.
Rep Vaught: Yes, sir.
Sen Caldwell: Anyone else? Senator Love.
Sen Love: Thank you, Mr. Chair. So, when you were speaking you said there’s a two year certification, is that correct?
Rep Vaught: Two or four, [inaudible].
Sen Love: Okay. And then you said there, then there’s five additional years under a veterinarian?
Rep Vaught: Yes, correct.
Sen Love: Now, is that including the collaborative practice?
Rep Vaught: No, sir.
Sen Caldwell: Ma’am don’t speak from– you’ll have your chance to testify in a minute.
Sen Love: Okay. All right. So, then the collaborative practice agreement is for how long?
Rep Vaught: For as long as they want to be in that agreement with that veterinarian. Say they moved to another area, oh, sorry. Say they moved to another area then they would have to find another veterinarian to get into collaborative agreement with. They can never be on their own, or hang their own shingle, or start their own business according to this bill.
Sen Love: Interesting. Okay. Okay.
Rep Vaught: As amended, yes sir.
Sen Love: Let me also ask you this. Now, do they carry any kind of malpractice insurance?
Rep Vaught: If I remember correct she can carry malpractice insurance.
Sen Love: Okay. All right.
Rep Vaught: But if you’ll ask her that question because, I’m not 100% sure, but I think if I remember correctly, when we were discussing, she could.
Sen Love: Okay. All right, thank you.
Sen Hill: Ultimately, Senator Love, the buck stops with the veterinarian, because he is the chief and he is they boss.
Sen Love: Okay.
Sen Caldwell: We’ve got a page and a half of witnesses, so we’ll start with that beginning with Meg Harrington. If you would come to the table please. Well take these in order for and against. And I will jump out of order if something, a question comes up that we need to find someone in particular to come back to the table to answer the question. Ma’am, if you would introduce yourself for the record and you’re recognized.
Harrington: Meg Harrington.
Sen Caldwell: Okay.
Harrington: First-off, I would like to thank you all for allowing me to be here today and to talk on behalf of my profession. My name is Meg Harrington. I practice Large Animal Veterinary Technology for a team of amazing veterinarians in South Arkansas. I currently reside in Grant County. I have been a credentialed Veterinary Technologist for over 14 years this month and have worked primarily in food animal medicine for the majority of those years. I am a strong advocate for keeping our production animals healthy, keeping our food supply safe, and keeping America fed. I have a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology that was obtained from Purdue University Veterinary School of Medicine in which I took clinicals in the same vet school as veterinarians did. And after passing the Veterinary Technician National Board Exam, I became a certified veterinary technologist.
In 2022, I applied to the Academy of Internal Medicine for Veterinary Technicians. To apply for this academy I had to meet several stringent requirements. I had to be mentored by a veterinarian who is a diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and Large Animal Medicine, and for context being a veterinary diplomat is one of the highest honors of the veterinary profession. So, I worked alongside of the most esteemed food animal practitioners to complete this process. To break it down further, a VTS is required to have a degree, which is two or four years, in veterinary technology from an AVMA accredited college or university which includes didactic instruction in pharmacology, anesthesia, clinical pathology, diagnostic imaging, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, surgical nursing, and large and small animal medicine, that list can continue.
In addition to the clinicals completed during my education, I have to have five years of postgraduate clinicals in a veterinary practice underneath a DBM. To get accepted into the academy and pass two National Board Exams before becoming a credentialed VTS. The proof of the veterinary technician licensure, education, professional history, 50+ hours of advanced clinically relevant continuing education. 75 case studies and four in-depth case reports during my application year, which has also acknowledged my competencies and letters of recommendation were acknowledged by veterinarians and diplomates of corresponding veterinarian academies, ensure quality applicants are accepted into these academies.
The advanced knowledge and skill of a veterinarian technician specialist allow a VTS to perform many of the duties and skills that are currently being performed by veterinarians, we are just being under utilized. These academies are accredited by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America and the Committee on Veterinary Technician Specialties, both are which recognized by the AVMA. Every specialty academy has an already established standardized board examination to be able to credential their applicants, which ensures consistency across the nation on the competency and the skill of these qualified individuals within their area of specialty. These current master level degree programs that are out there for veterinary technicians are taught by DVMs and VTSs. They are online, they provide no additional clinical instruction and are not AVMA recognized, and provide no standardized board examination in order to license graduates.
However, the VTS academies provide a vigorous clinical and educational process to ensure the profession has the highest qualified individuals in their specialty to be able to provide the best standard of care for our patients. The amount of postgraduate clinical instruction, education, and the passing of two national board exams to be a VTS far exceeds the requirements and the demands of a human APRN, in which we trust the care for our loved ones, so why are we not offering the same care for our veterinary patients to be able to have access to care? Our current challenge is when we’re unable to provide our patients with emergency care when there’s not VCPR, which is a veterinary-client-patient relationship.
Care must be declined in these situations. We have EMTs, nurses, and APRNs who are able to care for humans, but what about the animal patients that are going without access to veterinary care in emergency situations? This bill would allow a VTS to establish a preliminary VCPR for a new animal patient on behalf of the veterinarian in order to go pull a calf. If you’re a small animal, triage a dog that was hit by a car. If you work in equine medicine, suture a laceration on a horse. So long that every drug that would be prescribed by the veterinarian, prescribed by the veterinarian and dispensed by the veterinary technologist specialist, is administered by according to the label that is approved veterinary drug on label. This promotes heightened food safety and preservation and supports the judicious use of antimicrobials since every product would have to be used on label with already established meat and milk withdrawals.
This is an important part of the bill because currently as a CVT, an animal cannot be touched without an existing VCPR. Therefore, if a patient needs emergency care they currently have to be denied care if a veterinarian isn’t available. Under this bill Arkansas animals would have access to life saving, necessary veterinary care, and it would reduce the suffering by utilizing VTS to perform the duties in which they have been trained to do. This is all about providing care to pet owners and livestock producers with better access to care and improving animal welfare. For example, I had to bring schematics for everybody. This is one of my patients, it’s alive, it doesn’t look very good, does it? This patient was assessed out on a farm call, which is 10 minutes away from the practice that I work at.
None of the veterinarians were able to go, so I was able to because I work under indirect supervision currently as the law is read. The owner opted to euthanize this cow because they didn’t want to take on the financial supportive care. The patient had to wait hours before it could be euthanized because under current law I cannot euthanize animals. This bill would help solve this problem. Let’s see, this one, this patient fell through culvert, this is a cow. All I do is cows basically. This patient fell through a culvert and needed wound debridement after I assessed it in the field. I had to advise the owner, the cowboy, how to cut the necrotic tissue off, because the DVM was not available to get to that farm. Yet in college, I was taught how to do a surgical jugular cutdown with a scalpel blade over a major vessel in order to place a central line, but I’m unable to remove this dead skin. This bill would fix this problem.
And lastly, this patient. This was a new client, I received this picture of this cow– which is still alive in this picture, very much so. But because they didn’t have a VCPR and I could not get one of my veterinarians out to them, I was unable to provide care for this patient even though I was 15 minutes away. It bloated and died, and that’s an animal welfare problem. Be it known we are in a massive workforce shortage in veterinary medicine, and the retention of our technical staff is at an all time low because credentialed technicians have been met with multiple challenges mainly a lack of career advancement and underutilization of skills, and a barely livable wage.
By allowing this bill to pass it would establish a defined skill for practice for a veterinary technician specialist. And allow those with aspirations to develop their training further, and opportunity to be utilized and afford them a more appropriate compensation for our advanced skills and our knowledge to bring to a veterinary practice. We’re going to continue to lose more qualified individuals in this profession if we do not make room for opportunities of growth. By voting yes today you will allow veterinarians to have this support staff. We are their support staff, we are not their competition. They need in Arkansas to retain highly skilled, educated, credentialed staff members in the veterinary workforce by allowing the opportunity for career advancement.
While we understand not every veterinarian has an interest in hiring a VTS to work in their practice just as most MDs may or may not choose to hire an APRN. We would like to provide the opportunity and the choice to hire such individuals if they have a need to utilize one of them for their education and their skills, which are as vigorous, if not more than a human APRN. Until opposing veterinarians understand that CVTs and VTSs are their support staff and an asset to their practice, just as MDs benefit from RNs and APRNs veterinarians will continue to see us as competition and never fully benefit from the value that we can bring them. After all, a veterinary technician would not be able to be authorized to practice at all unless we were hired by a veterinarian. Thank you. I’ll take any questions.
Sen Caldwell: Okay, Committee. Senator Stone.
Sen Stone: Yes, I have a question.
Harrington: Yes, sir.
Sen Stone: Did I understand you to say that your training exceeds in some instances, what an APR– what an APN nurse has?
Harrington: Yes, sir. So, we have either a two or four year degree in veterinary technology, and then we have to five years of postgraduate clinicals, and then apply to an academy and get our clinical experience. We have competencies in which we have to have a veterinarian acknowledge that we have competencies. So if you look at that time frame it’s 7 to 9 years to be able to obtain a VTS certification between beginning of your education through the postgraduate clinicals. To be able to obtain a master’s degree to be a APRN it’s six years, which can be completed online.
Sen Stone: Well, I guess that was my question. You know a nurse practitioner has a master’s degree.
Harrington: Yes, sir.
Sen Stone: And I was just wondering how field training overrode the education that comes with the master’s degree.
Harrington: So, the master’s degree programs that are currently available for veterinary technicians as it is are completely online and offer no additional clinical instruction. And there’s no board certifying examination that ties to that master’s degree like it would for a nurse practitioner. And that honestly I feel like would flood our profession with maybe less qualified individuals when the VTS is actually a more rigorous process.
Sen Stone: One more question if I may.
Harrington: Yes, sir.
Sen Stone: You know, I was listening intently when you read your resume and it’s an impressive resume.
Harrington: Thank you, sir.
Sen Stone: But my question is, would someone with an associate degree be able to do what you’re doing right now? And would they be qualified with only the associate degree?
Harrington: Yes, sir. Yes.
Sen Stone: How so?
Harrington: So, the bachelor’s degree, much of the bachelor’s degree program includes additional management courses. And management is not what I do, I work on animals every day, so I think that’s a great question.
Sen Stone: Okay, thank you.
Harrington: Thank you.
Sen Caldwell: Any other questions? Senator Gilmore pointed out that with so many people we have here we’re going to limit testimony to five minutes, and I’ll make an exception to the first vet or two that comes up because we did give you free time to testify.
Harrington: Yes, sir.
Sen Caldwell: But in lieu of time we will start limiting testimony to five minutes.
Sen Gilmore: (Inaudible) does that need to be in the form of a motion?
Sen Caldwell: No.
Harrington: Yes, sir. Thank you.
Sen Caldwell: Thank you very much. I will allow the vets to choose who they want to go first and make their presentation. I go out of order? And again, we are on a time constraint, but I am going to allow you leeway to go more than 5 minutes but I sure don’t want you to go 45 minutes. So, if you would introduce yourself for the record, please?
McClure (AVMA): My name is Dr. Kent McClure. I’m an Associate Executive Vice President for the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Sen Caldwell: And where are you from, Dr. McClure?
Sen Hill: Scoot on up to the mic.
McClure (AVMA): Pardon. I’m originally from Texas. I was born and bred in Texas and I hope you won’t hold that against me. Right now I live in Virginia.
Sen Caldwell: Yeah. Thank you for being here and you’re recognized.
McClure (AVMA): And I will not go 45 minutes, I promise. And I will ask you to indulge me if I stumble just a little bit. I’ve been trying to make sure I don’t testify to something that’s been removed from the bill. So, I did want to react to a few of the things that have been said, and then I have some testimony that I’d like to provide. But it was said earlier that there were 420 veterinarians in Arkansas. There are currently 1,118 that are actively licensed by the board.
Well, that’s actively licensed by the board, there’s 1,118. It was said earlier that veterinarians oppose technicians and the program in 2019. I don’t believe that’s correct. Veterinarians were not supportive of the same thing as now, which was an expanded scope of practice for technicians beyond the skills that technicians have. We’ve always been very supportive technicians and fully integrating technicians and technician specialists into the profession. The other thing was talking about– one I would say, this is not about agreed, this is what’s right for the public, the profession, and the patients under our care, and the animals that we care for. And I know the prescribing piece has been brought out, but some of that gets mixed back in, and it gets complicated in a hurry.
One of the examples that was talked about was euthanizing an animal. If you don’t have a client-patient-relationship with that animal, and those are often controlled drugs that are used. And it’s actually a violation of the Federal Control Drug Law to prescribe a controlled drug for an animal patient that we have not physically examined. So, all of this, the problem is not when it’s an existing client, because today we can use, we can work with technicians and technician specialists in an indirect, direct, or immediate supervision with our existing clients. And that’s very critical because you learn about the facility, you learn about your client, you learn about their herd or their animals that they have. Their level of sophistication in their care for them. And the facilities and everything they have for them.
And so, that’s not a minor thing to gloss over even though we don’t spend a lot of time on it for the sake of time. The only issue that really comes in is allowing these individuals to establish the veterinary client-patient relationship and start practicing ‘all aspects of veterinary medicine’ without the veterinarian having been there and made those critical initial evaluations. That’s the piece that we don’t support. And so, again let me be very clear that we support veterinary technicians and technician specialists, they’re very valuable members of our team. The AVMA, one of the committees of the AVMA is actually the accrediting body that accredits 223 technician schools, technology schools including ASU Beebe. We have ongoing efforts to expand their programs and ongoing efforts to encourage the incorporation of technicians and technician specialists into veterinary practice. That’s something that’s very near and dear to us.
We do oppose this bill. We do not believe that it will, that creating a new category of practitioners, because that’s what this really does, will address any workforce issues. And we don’t believe it’s appropriate for the animals under our care, our clients, or the public. You may seem similarities to the delivery of human healthcare and veterinary medicine, but they’re actually quite different. And just simply applying something done in human medicine to veterinary medicine doesn’t work. Part of this is because the nature of our professions are very different. Including that many animals under veterinary care enter the food supply. The workforce and settings for the delivery of the care are very different. And the roles in protecting human health, public health, and animals differ.
And this bill would authorize a veterinary technician specialist to “perform all aspects of medical care.” Which means that they’ll be allowed to provide a level of care the simply do not have the training, knowledge, and skills to deliver. A missed, delayed, or wrong diagnosis can carry serious animal, human, and economic impacts. We’ve heard about the technician program. It’s either a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree. They take a national exam and upon completing this, the technician had demonstrated an ability to perform technical tasks to assist in the delivery of veterinary care.
The veterinary technician specialist as you’ve heard then has advanced training beyond that clinical supervision, and they can perform tasks, technical tasks at a higher level of proficiency, and perhaps even take on a few additional tasks that a regular technician would not be able to do. But that doesn’t equate to having the necessary appropriate skills to diagnose, formulate treatment plans, prescribe, perform surgery, or the other things this bill would authorize. Because it authorizes everything. An example I would give you is that– technicians are educated on taking x-rays and about radiation safety. While veterinarians are also educated on how to interpret them and how to use that information to diagnose, prescribe, or prognose and formulate a treatment man.
Another one would be to think about would be a horse with colic. Veterinary technicians are taught how to restrain horses, collect vital signs, collect blood, and how to run laboratory tests. A VTS in Large Animal Medicine would have a much higher level of proficiency in these tasks and could also do some additional diagnostic tests. The veterinarian on the other hand, is taught to interpret all of that information from their examination, other tools, and do other procedures such as a Transrectal Palpation of the Abdomen Ultrasound to diagnose the reason the horse is coliced and then decide whether a medication is appropriate or if it would need surgery, or even to be euthanized.
We think it would make a great deal of sense to further encourage the utilization of technicians and veterinary technician specialists with established patients, whether that’s under direct, indirect or immediate supervision as is currently allowed under the Arkansas law and regulations. One of the things that was stated in here was about not allowing somebody to hang out a shingle, they couldn’t start work out of a new office, but there will be people that will operate trucks out of existing offices. And I don’t think that’s addressed in the bill. The other place that’s in here is in the, and this one’s important and I’ll end with this because I’m trying to truncate the time down, and I apologize for that.
But the collaborating agreement does not have to be with a veterinarian who employes the individual. It’s an employee or any supervising veterinarian that’s entered into an agreement. And that creates a tremendous liability risk. Veterinary malpractice insurance covers the veterinarian and their employees acting in their assistance for their care. It would not cover a non-employee VTS who was working under them. And even if a VTS– I’m not aware of any insurance company, and there may be some, but I’m not aware of any that provide insurance directly for technicians. But even if they did, the technician would be the named insured not the veterinarian. So, the bill places all of the legal responsibility on the supervising veterinarian. And yet, if you’re an associate in a practice and the technicians in that practice employed by somebody else and you’re the supervising veterinarian, you have taken on all of the legal responsibility, and you will have a gap in coverage if anything goes wrong.
And the only reason I know those things is I sat on the board for the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Professional Liability Insurance Trust, and we provide insurance to a very significant segment of veterinarians in the country. And that would create a very real risk for veterinarians. And then, if that technicians’ insolvent or judgment proof if you will, then that leaves the client or the animal owner without coverage, and those can be significant.
There can be an instance for example, if a herd were aborted. Those damages can run to be very significant in terms of dollars, and leaving coverage bare like that we don’t believe is appropriate.
So, anyway, I’m sorry for fumbling here, I was trying to cut through it all. The bottom line is that, we absolutely support our technician college and our veterinarian technician specialist colleagues, and are working, doing everything we can as a profession to expand their ranks and incorporate them into veterinary practice. But that doesn’t mean that we think it’s appropriate to put them out into positions that we do not believe they’re qualified to operate.
Sen Caldwell: Thank you, Dr. McClure. Questions from the Committee? Senator Gilmore.
Sen Gilmore: Thank you Doctor for being here and taking the time. So, I know that last minute there was an amendment that changed a lot of this. We’re sort of working through this as well. But some of your remarks, and I know that you probably had time to sort of sift through this amendment that was brought. But one of the things that you spoke to, and I just want to ask your opinion on it. So, on page 6, line 7 where it strikes major abdominal thoracic orthopedic surgery– If I’m saying of this incorrectly I apologize. To some of your testimony where you said they’ll be able to perform major procedures Is that your reading of this bill– in its current form with that language now sticker?
McClure AVMA): No, sir. What I was referring to was the, where it talks about the definition of and I forget the term. It was at the front where it talks about the practice of, let’s see here. The specialized veterinary technology, it’s on page 2 line 4, number 20 there. It says “specialized veterinary technology,” which is what the veterinary technician specialist would be–
02/14/23 Senate Agri – part 2 – Mel
McClure: (AVMA) …authorized to practice means the performance of all aspects of medical care, services, diagnosis, prognosis, and the administration of appliances, prescribed drugs, medications which may be administration prescribed. Again that depends on if it’s already an existing client, it’s under indirect or direct. But I think this contemplates them operating independently in that regard.
So my point was to say that they’re not trained to do all that. And I understand the intent behind the amendment you were referring to, to take, I mean, I think we would all agree that it wouldn’t be appropriate for them to be doing any abdominal surgery. And I think that was the reason behind striking the major was so that there wasn’t a confusion over that. And that’s not something that I quibble with.
Sen Gilmore: Okay. Follow-up? And so I think was it in 2019 – and someone probably can speak to this better than I can. The vet tech bill I think passed here in Arkansas that created the, I guess, indirect and direct relationship that’s already in current law. So this language – obviously, it’s new language because it’s underlined, that you were referring to on page, where was that again, was it page 2? How does that differ currently from what’s currently in place?
McClure: (AVMA) My understanding is that the Arkansas Board of Veterinary Medicine has promulgated rules that talk about the specific types of activities and tasks that can be done under immediate, direct and indirect supervision. So for example, under indirect supervision with an existing client, if the veterinarian considers it appropriate, there’s a number of husbandry practices, castrations, and other things like that that are specifically authorized today for technicians to do. My colleagues from here in Arkansas if I’ve misstated that can correct it for you, but that’s my understanding. And then what this would do would be expand that way beyond doing those technical provisions, to the diagnosing and formulating the treatment plans, those sorts of things.
Sen Gilmore: Okay. And one last follow-up, Mr. Chair. Thank you. On page 5, and again amendments make things difficult because it’s hard to sort of shift through here. But on page 5, starts at line 24, where that language is stricken. That moves the line 20 up, or excuse me, line 29 up to Section 3, now. But it adds language – and if I got this correct – it adds language that “a collaborative agreement shall be required.” Can you speak to that? What does that necessarily mean in your practice?
McClure: (AVMA) Well, I obviously am not, I don’t have any technicians under a collaborative agreement but I think what they’ve done–
Sen Gilmore: Is that similar to a collaborative like that a APRN would have with a physician, an MD?
McClure: (AVMA) I’m assuming that’s the intent behind it. Yes, sir.
Sen Gilmore: Okay. Any more to expound on that or?
McClure: (AVMA) Well, again I think that my understanding and belief is that the training that goes into that type of a practitioner in human medicine includes the diagnosis, those types of things, the prescribing that they’re authorized to do. And for veterinary technicians the exposure they get to that is extremely limited. I’m not saying it’s none, but the program is not geared to teaching them to diagnose, prognose, perform minor surgery in the field, and be. The most succinct way I know how to say this, they’re not trained to be independent medical decision makers.
Sen Gilmore: Okay. Thank you.
Sen Caldwell: Senator Dees.
Sen Dees: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you again for coming. When I think about food supply, could you help me understand if there’s any specific risks related to food supply. With now that prescriptive authority is out that makes me feel a little better but could you help me understand just two questions, that’s the first concern I had, any thoughts related to that?
McClure: (AVMA) It’s a very real concern. Part of the difference, as we talked about for veterinary medicine from human medicine is our ability to have impacts on economically significant agricultural activity within a state. And failure to diagnose an important disease can impact not just the animal and not just the producer but it can impact an entire state if it causes a quarantine or something like that. So there are diseases that can be misdiagnosed easily, things like anaplasmosis in cattle, avian influenza. African swine fever can be easily misdiagnosed.
And it’s part of the reason that it’s important for the veterinarian to be the one to see these new patients, new clients because a lot of times those are going to be smaller mixed animal operations. And they’re ones that may not have the same level of personnel that can identify things and relate things. And so having that veterinarian be the one to make that encounter is of critical importance in protection against in identifying any type of disease like that so that it doesn’t expand. And there are certainly infectious diseases like that that occur in Arkansas, so that’s not some abstract concern.
Sen Dees: And to follow up. My second concern was going back to what you had said. I want to make sure I understand your testimony on risk following from a liability perspective. I heard you outlining an employee, versus a veterinarian tech specialist, versus a veterinarian. And I want to make sure I’m following that correctly. So if there is a liable clause, a malpractice clause, with a vet tech under a veterinarian who is at fault? And maybe what’s the definition between an employee– I thought there was wording there that I want to make sure I’m clear on, of what’s covered and what’s not from a practice?
McClure: (AVMA) The practice form that covers the vast majority of veterinarians in the country today would cover them for the acts or omissions of their employee while they’re assisting them in the delivery of care. But if that individual is not their employee and this, because the idea is if you’re an associate veterinarian in that practice, you’re going to have your own liability coverage and the veterinarians are. And then there’s going to be coverage for the veterinarian and the employees. But this contemplates entering into a collaborative agreement with someone who is not your employee.
And so if a claim is made against that veterinarian for the acts or omissions of someone who is not their employee, one of the things the carrier does when they look at that is say– they tick the boxes on do you meet the conditions for coverage. And it’s not you, I mean I don’t mean you, I mean, it’s not the veterinarian, and it’s the act of the veterinary technician specialist, then that would be a claim that would not be covered.
Now if the allegation was directed towards the veterinarian, like the veterinarian failed to supervise. That could potentially be covered because that’s the act of the named insured, the veterinarian. But this provides what I would call vicarious liability, meaning me being responsible for the acts of another, not for my own actions. And it places that on me. And the way that that insurance works in our industry that would not be a covered act.
Sen Dees: Thank you.
Sen Caldwell: I’ve got a couple things I want to comment on and then I’ll get your feedback on it. I know that part of this collaborative agreement people are thinking we’re going to get 1099 employees. The IRS is working diligently against that. I hire W-2 employees, I hire 1099 employees. And basically, if an employee works for the same person every day, they cannot be a 1099 employee. So that’s going to be a real problem out there. And the issue if you’re working in a collaborative agreement, you’re saying I’m working for you. So that’s something that’s going to have to have a come to Jesus meeting on whether you’re going to be a 1099 employee or W-2 employee.
Now the other thing that you brought up a while ago that I wanted to ask about was the fact that it allows for all these activities that they can do, including dispensing drugs. If they were to go to someone raising poultry or a cattle farmer or even whatever, and make a misdiagnosis but they called the vet and say look, we need to prescribe this. They’re going to have the ability to dispense that medication off the truck. Would that be correct, your understanding of this bill?
McClure: (AVMA) Yes.
Sen Caldwell: Okay. I mean, you kind of hit on something a while ago. When it’s stated that they can’t have a separate office but if they’re out in that truck that is their rolling office. So going back to the food chain, Senator Dees on that, and again whether they’re a 1099 or W2 employee is going to be irrelevant, it’s all going to come back to liability, it’s going to come back to them and to the vet. I don’t think there’s going to be a separation of liability there but that’s just my own humble opinion and I won’t say.
All right, other questions? Senator Leding, you have a question? No? Anyone? Dr. McClure, we appreciate you coming to testify. Oh, time out.
Sen Gilmore: I’m sorry.
Sen Caldwell: That’s fine. Hey, look, we’re not here to hurry. I want everybody to have an understanding. So we’re going to try to do this. Senator Gilmore, you’re recognized.
Sen Gilmore: Thank you. And again reading, comparing the two, reading through here I guess that discussion sort of prompted something I meant to ask earlier, so I appreciate that. On page 6, line 16, unless I’m reading it wrong, and you can talk maybe perhaps in practice how things work. But that subsection there F, the word prescribe is stricken and it’s left with dispense. So I’m assuming the way that works is the vet prescribes and then the VTS would dispense those drugs. Is that the way you read that? How does that work?
McClure: (AVMA) I would use slightly different terminology but I agree with you.
Sen Gilmore: Well, I’m using layman’s terms.
McClure: (AVMA) What I mean, that from a legal standpoint, it’s the veterinarian who is prescribing and dispensing. When it’s an existing, in other words, the veterinarian establishes the veterinary-client-patient relationship and then it’s the veterinarian who is making the prescriptive determination and causing it to be dispensed. The fact that their agent is the one that physically hands it doesn’t from a legal standpoint in my view, mean that they’re prescribing and dispensing. And that can be done today under indirect supervision in Arkansas with a veterinary technician or veterinary technician specialist when you’ve got that existing relationship that we talked about and then as Ben said. The veterinarian has to be the one to use their judgment to decide that’s right based on the information that they have from what they know about the client, their facilities, their animals, their husbandry, and then what they’ve been told.
And that is an extremely valuable role that technicians and technician specialists can play. No one’s trying to say otherwise. It’s that encounter with the client to establish it that’s critical for the veterinarian. And then it’s to make sure that it’s the veterinarian making those decisions around diagnosis, formulating the treatment plan. That can be done with incredibly valuable input that comes from the technician and technician specialist. And we’re all for that.
Sen Gilmore: Thank you.
Sen Caldwell: Any other questions? Thank you again for your testimony. Next, we have Robin Roberts. Ms. Roberts, if you would identify yourself for the record. I’m going to set the clock when you start. We have five-minute testimony.
Roberts: Robin Roberts. I have been a CVT–
Sen Caldwell: Pull that a little bit closer to you.
Roberts: Robin Roberts. Senators, I’ve been a CVT for just shy of seven years. Six years prior to that seven, I was a veterinary assistant. I’ve been in veterinary medicine for a total of almost 13 years. I am currently in phase two of my VTS certification with the Academy of Veterinary Technicians in Clinical Practice. Our current practice acts have no differentiations between that of a CVT and a VTS despite the educational and clinical experience differences. As of right now, my career is a dead-end career. And I feel like I’ve been on both sides of the playing field for veterinary assistants and veterinary technicians to be able to fight for this today.
For others and me alike, obtaining my VTS will show superior multidisciplinary care. The benchmarks are set to ensure that a VTS is an exceptional technician with areas of interest including at minimum of five years of experience under, like Meg Harrington had said, a Diplomatic veterinarian, which is the highest-ranking DVN.
Finally, a VTS will demonstrate that they are capable of providing a level of intelligence that is clearly superior to that of a general veterinary technician by successfully passing a board’s exam through the American Boards of Veterinary practitioners. Based on survey results, input from other veterinarians, there is already a presence of highly skilled, knowledgeable, and educated veterinary technicians that currently practice their advanced skills in understanding on a daily basis in clinical practice. These individuals are dedicated and invaluable to multidisciplinary contemporary veterinary medicine. Who also demonstrate extensive knowledge of groups of drugs, biologics, supplements, their mechanisms of actions, clinically relevant to side effects, and in their therapeutic responses.
So why can we not give them the respect and acknowledgment they deserve separate to that of a CVT? Recently, the term VTS was called out to be a half trained individual by some, due to the thought of a VTS aiding in antimicrobial resistance through the dispensing of inappropriate drugs. To clarify though, this bill states that a VTS is under the order of a supervising veterinarian. Meaning, I did not give any drugs that my doctor that I am under did not instruct me to give.
It will forever and remain the veterinarian’s choice to hire a VTS. This bill promotes full utilization of current CVTs and promotes the profession of veterinary technology, making a more appealing career option since there would be more opportunities for growth. This would in turn promote an increase in enrollment to our in state Veterinary Technology program.
Recently this morning NAVTA released their 2022 demographic survey. Stating that the top two reasons we have such a high turnover and barriers of full utilization is one, veterinarians don’t trust us. They don’t trust and they don’t respect us. And the second was veterinarians hiring on-the-job people and training them to do our job.
I fully respect DVMs and I am so thankful for what they do. I in no way do I want to be their enemy. I want to provide them and be for them a tool at my fullest lawful capability that I can be. After all, I and other CVTs should be entitled to grow in our profession. We passed this in 2019, so why are we holding us back? We are more than just a glorified restrainer.
Within the last six months of attaining my vet tech license, I lost my dog due to shock. I was a current worker of a veterinarian and he denied me because of schedule conflict. He told me I had to go somewhere else. I called every veterinarian in my county and they told me no. I had to go to the emergency clinic where he passed away when I drove into the parking lot.
I vowed that day to fight for that. To fight for the clients like me, the owners like me to continue to increase my knowledge within this profession to pursue the highest, most recognized, and respected credentials as a veterinary technician. This kind of scenario happens every day. Let’s give more animals a chance at survival. Let’s give clients a chance to prove themselves worthy of emergency care when a veterinarian is just too busy or they’re not a current patient. Let Arkansas change veterinary medicine for the better. Thank you, Senators.
Sen Caldwell: Thank you.
Roberts: Thank you.
Sen Caldwell: Any questions for Ms. Roberts? Seeing none. Thank you for your testimony.
Sen Hill: Mr. Chair?
Sen Caldwell: Yes?
Sen Hill: For the record, I want to make a comment here between Ms. Harrington and Ms. Roberts, they will be the first two vet tech specialists trained to take the exam for the State of Arkansas.
Sen Caldwell: Congratulations. All right, Lori Taylor? (Inaudible) I’ll defer if y’all– I’m not going to– thank you.
Ashworth: Senator Caldwell, can I utilize some props with some bottles of medications to show the differences of different medicines?
Sen Caldwell: Before you–
Ashworth: Yes, I’m Dr. Chris Ashworth.
Sen Caldwell: Represent. Say again?
Ashworth: I’m sorry.
Sen Caldwell: Say again?
Ashworth: Dr. Chris Ashworth. I’m from Greenwood, Arkansas.
Sen Caldwell: Yes, sir. You’re recognized.
Ashworth: Everything out here. So I live in Greenwood. I’ve been a veterinarian for 36 years. After veterinary school, I attended the University of Illinois and completed a large animal internship. I then continued and completed a three year residency in food animal medicine and surgery. Completed a master’s degree in nutrition, stayed on as an assistant professor teaching veterinary students. I was at the University of Illinois for a total of seven years. I’m the second most educated veterinarian in the State of Arkansas, second only to the pathologist at the diagnostic lab. That’s a little bit of my background.
I run 300 head of cattle, an entire menagerie just like this man. I’ve got a horse, and a cow, and donkeys, and everything else that clients wanted to get rid of for whatever reason. I’ve taught veterinary technicians and I’ve been blessed with some great technicians while in the large animal clinic at the University of Illinois. As well as my time when I was at the Purina Mills Research Center and I was the national veterinarian for Purina Mills for beef cattle and dairy cattle.
I love veterinary technicians. I’m opposed to this bill though on several aspects. Previously prior to the amendment, the subtitle of the bill states the bill is to authorize prescriptive authority for veterinary technician specialists in a collaborative practice agreement. The State of Arkansas does not have the right to grant prescriptive authority for veterinary drugs. This is 100% held by the Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Veterinary Medicine on non controlled substances.
For controlled substances this authority is granted between the Drug Enforcement Agency in collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration. That is having a DEA license. And at that point, we’ll talk about individual drugs. The first one I’ll mention is lidocaine. This is 2% lidocaine. This is what’s used as a deadening agent. Your dentist would use something similar to this to deaden your gum to extract a tooth or to give a filling. One of the things, so I use this when I’m going to do a C-section on a cow. If I’m going to suture up a horse with a laceration. So this is a deadening agent so that the animal doesn’t feel the pain.
If you look at the bottom, it says for animal – looking at the bottle – for animal use only, keep out of reach of children. Caution federal law restricts this drug to the use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian. There is no mechanism for veterinary technicians to prescribe drugs anywhere in the United States. And that’s for all drugs that are labeled for veterinary use.
It then comes back to, we move into other sections of drugs. So let’s talk about the next one, we’ll pick Nuflor. This is an antibiotic very commonly used in bovine medicine for treating respiratory disease. Once again the label on this is very plain, very explicit. All the way down to telling me where I can give this. I can give it subcutaneously, but if I give it underneath the skin we cannot utilize the meat for that animal for 38 days. I can give this in the muscle and I cannot utilize the meat for 28 days. It’s very, very prescriptive.
There are other drugs, other antibiotics that in which I’m actually told exactly where to give the drug on the animal, at the base of the ear. Now then one of the things that’s changing currently, in all of my lifetime we’ve been able to go down to the local co-op, local farm store and purchase some antibiotics. Penicillin, tetracyclines, some of the fish antibiotics, lincomycin. As of June the 23rd of this year this is going to change under FDA order. This has been going on for four years. So at that point, all antibiotics in the United States will be under the prescriptive authority of a physician, a dentist, or veterinarian. This is all trying to minimize antimicrobial resistance which is the big issue right now in food animal medicine in particular. Whether it be in poultry or whether it be in cattle.
And then finally, we have drugs that are not approved specifically for a species. One of those would be meloxicam. Many of you may be taking meloxicam for arthritis. This is a fantastic drug. It’s a non-steroidal similar to banamine. This is not approved for use in cattle. However, I can prescribe this extra label under AMDUCA. Okay, so there is a federal mechanism by which I can use this but I have to take the responsibility also for the meat and milk withdrawal, slaughter withdrawal times for that as well.
Finally, I want to come to the controlled drugs. I didn’t bring one today, but controlled drugs are under the prescriptive authority of the Drug Enforcement Agency. So basically you end up, once you graduate from veterinary school and you pass the national board and the state board, you are considered a licensed veterinarian. A licensed veterinarian does not have the authority to utilize controlled drugs. Controlled drugs, you then have to have another license with a background check and an application fee in which the Drug Enforcement Agency’s looking into your background, making certain that you are a reasonable citizen that they believe they can trust to utilize things such as morphine.
One of the things that we’re blessed in my profession is right now is we don’t have a lot of issues with Oxycontin in particular. But on the other hand, unfortunately, we have really big issues with ketamine and xylazine. And veterinary clinics are being broken into so that humans can get access to those so they can use them for recreational drugs.
Okay, the bottom line is the state doesn’t have the authority to give a veterinary technician the ability to prescribe these drugs. This is all under federal law. Under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. With that, I will be more than welcome to answer questions.
Sen Caldwell: Senator Davis?
Sen Davis: Doesn’t the bill state that though specifically that everything that a VTS can do falls within, it has to fall within state or federal law?
Ashworth: Correct. And so what’s interesting is if that’s the case, and it comes back to federal law, that already says that they can’t prescribe.
Sen Davis: Right. So why are you then opposed to that statement? Can you help me understand what the opposition is to that?
Ashworth: I’m just wanting everyone to understand that there’s no legal way that they could have prescribed to begin with.
Sen Davis: And I think they clearly said that like they were saying that if federal law changes then state law would change but that was clearly– they stated that on the front end.
Ashworth: But the thing is that’s not changing. If you look at what’s going on right now in medication law is you see that tetracycline and penicillin is coming under more regulation, which for the last, my 59 years had not been under regulation. Okay so regulation’s not getting looser, it’s getting tighter. And then when you look at xylazine coming on, xylazine is going to end up being a controlled drug. Veterinarians may not like it but it’s going to happen.
Sen Davis: So if it’s getting tighter in regulation not looser, then what is the Veterinarian Association’s opposition to the bill clearly stating that they only have authority within as long as it’s within federal law?
Ashworth: The thing is they have no authority because they can’t prescribe it.
Sen Davis: Right. So I guess what I’m saying, I’m not trying to be argumentative. I’m just trying to understand because there’s been so much information around this but if the bill clearly says that they only have authority that is given to them via federal law and federal law is getting tighter, not looser, help me.
Ashworth: The federal law says they can’t do that.
Sen Davis: Right. So then help me understand what the opposition is by the Veterinarian Association if they’re not ever going to have that authority anyways, and it clearly states that they’d only be given that authority via federal law in this bill. Do you see what I’m saying? Like if they’re not going to get the authority and federal law continues to tighten, then what then is the concern with the Veterinarian Association when it clearly states that within the language of the bill?
Ashworth: So I didn’t want the State of Arkansas thinking that they had the authority to change that because they don’t.
Sen Davis: Yes, okay. And I think the other side has been clear that they understand that. And so I just wanted to make sure I was like not missing something.
Ashworth: But if they understood that Senator Davis, why did they put in the initial bill that they wanted to be able to have the ability to prescribe?
Sen Davis: I thought it said that it had to fall within the guidelines of federal law, state, and federal law? It states that many times throughout the bill.
Ashworth: And they couldn’t do that because federal law doesn’t allow it. This bottle completely says they can’t do that.
Sen Davis: Yes. So I think so then I guess we are all clear Both the VTS side and the veterinarian side, and the Committee side, that it’s not allowed under federal law and it says that in the bill. And everyone has been upfront about that. I was never under the assumption that they could do something different because it’s been in the bill and the VTS side has clearly stated that they only would have that authority if federal law gave them that authority. So I don’t think anyone’s been unclear on that and I just wanted to make sure if I was unclear that I, you know, make sure I was not missing something but you’ve helped me understand that none of the sides were unclear. We all understood that only they would be given that authority if federal law gave them that authority.
Ashworth: If federal law changed.
Sen Davis: Sure. Okay. Thank you.
Sen Caldwell: Senator Gilmore has a question. Before we move forward on that, Senator Davis, I want to point out that marijuana’s against federal law today, and it’s allowed in Arkansas. So there is a caveat into that, but anyway.
Sen Davis: A big caveat within that, right?
Sen Caldwell: Senator Gilmore?
Sen Davis: Like I mean, it’s quite different.
Sen Gilmore: And I would agree. It is allowed, heavily regulated. And I think there was a little trip to go see that the other day. But just want to follow up on that because that was something that I’ve been sort of sitting here wrestling with. So just to follow up on Senator Davis’ line of questioning. Do you foresee at any point that federal law changes to allow any sort of prescriptive authority?
Ashworth: Senator Gilmore, I do not. And the reason for that is, unfortunately, in our society there is a growing drug abuse issue. I’ve used xylazine for 36 years. It’s been out there a long time. Who would have ever thought that humans would want to start abusing xylazine?
Sen Gilmore: I don’t, for the record.
Ashworth: So there is a veterinarian, Dr. Meredith Jones, who now teaches at Oklahoma State, who was accidentally injected with xylazine by a student at Texas A&M when she was teaching there. And was placed in the hospital under observation for three days because of some things it does with the heart. And then you look at ketamine. Ketamine’s been used as an anesthetic in children. It’s coming back for use in adults causes hallucinations but it’s one of the reasons that people break into veterinary clinics is wanting to get the ketamine.
These are all controlled drugs. They have to be behind two locks and two keys, separate keys, separate locks, okay. I do not see FDA relaxing drug prescriptive authority anytime soon on any of these veterinary drugs, including penicillin and tetracycline.
Sen Gilmore: Okay, so.
Sen Caldwell: I’m sorry, go ahead.
Sen Gilmore: May I follow up? So that being said, we don’t foresee any sort of change on that front, and I’ll just add to a question that I asked a second ago, now with the amendment that was made on page 6, line 16. Do you have the bill in front of you? Would you like the bill?
Ashworth: Got the amendment?
Sen Gilmore: And I actually have it marked.
Ashworth: Is it about dispensing?
Sen Gilmore: Yeah, it strikes prescribing and just puts dispensing.
Ashworth: Right. So and so here’s an example of that.
Sen Gilmore: May I finish the question, I’m sorry. So with that, obviously, there has to be a script written correct, by someone like yourself. And then you mentioned the fact that it’s heavily regulated, it’s obviously behind lock and key. I think you said not one but two keys.
Ashworth: Controlled drugs.
Sen Gilmore: Right. So obviously, if they’re going to just be dispensing, they’re not going to be doing that without the knowledge of a vet.
Sen Gilmore: Okay, you agree with that?
Sen Gilmore: Great. Thank you.
Ashworth: I think an example of that, Dr. Gilmore, is I look at your horse and I give your horse banamine as an anti-inflammatory.
Sen Gilmore: Just for the record, I didn’t go to medical school.
Ashworth: So I give your horse banamine on day one for a foot lameness. And that animal gets better for two or three days. And then on day four, this animal needs some more medication. I’m out of the office. You’re away from the farm. You call and you say doc, Chester needs another dose. And so in that case, I call the clinic and the veterinary technician can pull up a dose of banamine for you or someone for your farm to stop by the clinic and pick that medication up.
Sen Caldwell: I want to ask a question. My wife’s a pharmacist, my daughter’s a dentist, my father was a medical doctor. So we understand drug diversion. Is there anything, two questions. One is there anything in current law that would prevent any of this medicine being on a truck that’s not occupied by a veterinarian?
Ashworth: As long as that would be an employee of the veterinarian, as well as, there is a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship intact. Meaning I’ve done work for that family before, the technician could be on the truck and could yes, could utilize those drugs.
Sen Caldwell: The second is drug diversion. You alluded a little bit that people break into the clinics. But a lot of people would never guess that human patients would take their animal patient’s drugs but it’s a real issue. Senator Wallace, you have a question?
Sen Wallace: I’m going to make sure I understand it. And thank you for being here today, Doctor. My understanding is with the amendment that they’re giving away their ability to prescribe. And so all these medicines here, they’re not wanting to prescribe those.
Sen Wallace: Okay. And the point you’re making?
Ashworth: Is legally they couldn’t have to of begin with if they had wanted to under federal law.
Sen Wallace: Thank you.
Sen Caldwell: Any other questions from the Committee? I want to go back to page 2, section 20, which is on line 5, if you’d get that. Where in some of the other places we eliminated some of the descriptions of what they could and could not do. But this paragraph is still in there and it states that specialized veterinary technology means, it describes what it means. They can perform all the aspects of medical care. I mean does that?
Ashworth: Page 2, what line?
Sen Caldwell: Page 2, Section 20, the whole section beginning on line 5. We deleted it further along in the bill but we haven’t deleted that. And it still states that “veterinary technology means the performance of all aspects of medical care service, diagnosis, prognosis, administration of appliances, and prescribed drugs, medication, treatment of an animal patient under the direct supervision, indirect or immediate supervision” which we always say that of the collaborating veterinarian. We deleted some of that language later on but we haven’t deleted it there. Would that mean in your eyes that we–
Sen Gilmore: May I?
Sen Caldwell: Yeah, doctor, go ahead.
Sen Gilmore: And I’m not trying to.
Sen Caldwell: Well, hey, this is—
Sen Gilmore: I just want to point out the tense of the word where it says prescribed, E-D.
Sen Caldwell: I understand. I know but further on it talks about not doing abdominal surgery and other things. Well, we delete it there but is– and I’m not saying this is intentional at all but it’s still the process is camouflaged in this paragraph.
Sen Gilmore: Understood. And I’m not the best at English. I want to make sure that everybody is clear.
Sen Caldwell: I’m not saying intentionally, but unintentionally do we have an unintentional consequence right there that we agree to delete it later in the bill but we’ve left it in the bill. As a veterinarian, if you had a technologist out there would you agree or disagree that they would have the ability to–
Ashworth: So Senator Caldwell, I’m making an assumption about someone else’s want or need but I would assume that part of that paragraph probably should have been deleted as well. But that’s up to others.
Sen Caldwell: We’ll bring other witnesses. Okay, any other– Senator Davis, please?
Sen Davis: Yes. I mean, when I read it, it says, “the administration of appliances and prescribed drugs,” drugs that are prescribed by the veterinarian. I think that’s the point he was trying to make, not that they’re prescribing, prescribed.
Sen Caldwell: No, here’s what I’m getting at. At the end of line 1 it says, “the performance of all aspects of medical care” is what I’m getting at.
Ashworth: And diagnosis.
Sen Caldwell: Later in the bill we eliminated some of that but this right here includes all of what we eliminated. Yes, it won’t be in a bill later on but right here, “the performance of all aspects of medical care; services, diagnosis, prognosis” and does that mean I can do major abdominal surgery off that language there is what I’m asking?
Sen Davis: Chairman? Well, I would say no because that’s not allowed in the bill anywhere. And then the second thing I would point out is the end of the paragraph says under the immediate supervision or direct indirect and immediate supervision of a collaborating veterinarian. So that’s got to be within the context of their collaborative agreement that a vet has to choose to enter into. So it’s an agreement that they would come to. But there’s nowhere else in the bill that gives them that authority. I think it’s just explaining what can be done within the collaborative agreement but we’ve taken the surgeries, the major surgery and all that kind of stuff out.
Sen Caldwell: Dr. Ashworth, we appreciate your testimony.
Ashworth: Thank you, sir.
Sen Caldwell: Okay, to speak for the bill is Codie Jo.
Ashworth: There’s somebody’s water. I think I may be stealing Senator Love’s water.
Sen Caldwell: Okay, next one, is it Tupa? Okay, please introduce yourself for the record, and you’re recognized.
Tupa: So good morning, my name is Codie Jo Tupa. I am not qualified like all these other people. I’m a third-year pre-veterinary student at University of Arkansas at Monticello. I’m the president of the pre-vet club on campus, a member of the rodeo team, and I’ve raised and owned animals all my life. Growing up with animals, I knew the importance of tools to enhance the communication and productivity between farmer and animal. These tools can include foal alerts in mares to know when the mares are foaling, growth stimulants in calves to produce better cattle, vaccines, and medications to protect the health of the animal or better facilities for the safety of human and animal. So similar is like using a printer instead of having to write it out on paper. It’s just a convenience but it also increases productivity.
One specific tool that comes to mind personally from riding horses is spurs. Spurs are very controversial to many. Some argue that they are animal cruelty or are not beneficial to the rider. In some cases, this is true but when they’re properly utilized spurs are a tool. They do not magically fix a horse. They don’t make the horse faster or a better athlete. They don’t replace the skill of the rider. They enhance the skills and knowledge and become an extension of the rider. Spurs are used to reach the horse in ways that are otherwise unreachable. They’re there to better utilize the ability that the horse has.
In the same way, veterinary technician specialists are a tool to veterinarians. They are not there to replace, they’re there to be an extension of the veterinarian. This bill will not be harmful to veterinarians from my understanding or their careers from what I read in the bill. And I know it’s been revised but whenever I read it, it was section 118, I think it was number 40. But it states a collaborative practice agreement. It means a written plan that identifies a veterinarian and a veterinary technician specialist who agrees to collaborate together. This does not state a practice agreement or veterinary technician will replace the veterinarian and that’s talked about later. It is extending the reach and availability of veterinarians by using veterinary specialists who are more than qualified with the knowledge and ability to collaborate with veterinarians for the benefit of patient health care.
So just going back like I said, I’m not qualified. I’m speaking from a pre-vet perspective. I’ve grown up with horses. We’ve had many instances, I remember whenever I was 10 years old, I had to hold a horse while my mom shot it because the vet was going to be two or three hours. And he had broke his leg so I mean, it was unethical to let him wait and sit for a vet to come out. And I think this bill would allow more leeway to provide the ethicalness that the horse deserved.
Another example is recently – we live about two hours – the closest veterinarian to us, large animal vet, is two hours away. And our friend had a horse that jumped the fence and like cut herself all up. And it was closer for them to drive three hours to Louisiana or the vet that was two hours close said it would be eight hours before he got off work and could come to their house and see it. So that eight hours difference versus the three hours of driving to Louisiana. I think just overall that’s what I was trying to express through this is these vet techs can be a tool to veterinarians, for the health and safety of the animals. And that’s pretty much it. I can try to answer questions but like I said I am not qualified.
Sen Caldwell: Committee, you have questions? Senator Leding? Oh you’re getting water. I’m sorry. I thought you were grabbing your mic there. You faked me out. Thank you for coming. Appreciate your testimony. Okay, I’ll again defer to the vets to allow their next speaker to come.
Connor: Hello, my name is Rob Connor. I’m a veterinarian of 34 years. I’ve been a mixed animal practice vet the whole time. I’m from Mountain Home, Arkansas. Greetings from the front line. I’ve heard a lot of people speculate about what’s going on in Arkansas and what we do. I’ll try to set it straight.
I employ nine veterinarians, five full-time, four part-time. I employ 11 veterinary technicians and assistants. I value technicians. I’m going to interview three to four veterinary technical assistants. They graduate from Mississippi State University this spring. This would have been a timely bill about 10 years ago. It was hard to get a vet 10 years ago. When you get an applicant, they wouldn’t see emergencies, they wouldn’t work weekends or holidays. They didn’t want to do any large animal. We were basically competing in a corporate world if you will, where the big money was the corporate clinics in the cities.
All those vets got balled up in north Arkansas and Little Rock and Mountain Home, Jonesboro working kind of those cushier jobs for more money. The veterinarian industry saw a problem with that and they changed a little bit. Five years ago, like I say, I couldn’t hardly get an applicant even to try to hire anyone. And I’ll tell you this, that this last year, in the last 12 months, I have hired 12– excuse me, four mixed animal veterinarians, four. I passed on at least three more. The vet schools have changed their criteria for some of these students entering vet school. They’re accepting kids from rural backgrounds, mixed animal homes. They are now cranking out a different product than they were over five years ago.
Another little thing that’s of interest because you know I heard about the big crisis that we’re in the middle of, we’re in a crisis. Well, I mean, I’ve seen worse times in 34 years. We had a crisis 10 years ago. We had bad times five years ago and we’re almost to a solution right now. Now, the interesting thing about that is too that these veterinary schools, by the way, are setting up extra clinical practices. I’m an ECP practice for Mississippi State University’s vet school. We have over 60 kids – 60 not kids – 60 almost graduates coming through our program from University of Missouri, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, LSU, Mississippi State. These are third and fourth-year graduates and what they’re trying to do is get as many skills as they can in mixed animal practice because they want to go back to a rural setting, and they want to go to work. That’s 60, and that’s within two years.
So I’m hearing about all these plans to fix a problem, this big, big problem that we have, that are going to if you implemented this today, you’re talking about nearly seven years before the cavalry comes riding over the hill. And I’m trying to tell you three years ago my testimony would have been very different. It’s looking a lot different now.
Another thing I’d tell you is what’s the next four years looking like. LSU, my alma mater went from 90 per class to 120 per class. Now they’re going to let 220 kids per class in. Lyon College is setting up the veterinary school in Little Rock, ASU-Jonesboro. Every veterinary college is increasing their enrollment. And by the way, they’re increasing their admittance by these farm kids. I’m very, very active in our FFA vet science team, 4-H, all of these farm kids, all of these rural kids. We have a huge supply of these kids coming along. They’re getting ready to go to work. Things are going to change and they’re going to change a lot quicker than you’re going to change.
By the way, my veterinary technicians, I’ve hired three out of your vet tech school. I don’t have any hate affair with any veterinary technician. I’d love to hire more CVTs. We’ve got kids taking courses to become RVTs, we utilize them. I say, kids, heck, I’ve got a registered vet technician that used to run the University of Missouri’s vet school technician program. They’re skilled. They’ve got a lot of value. They help us out. I’ve never been adversarial to anything like this.
Now, I have a problem with the bill. I think that bill’s a mile wide of gray, and it’s got more holes in it than a volleyball net. The prescription thing being dropped was a very good thing. That really was a big problem but words like indirect and direct supervision of a vet. Now think about this, I can be on the beach in Florida and I can indirectly supervise my techs, sure can. I have to have an existing veterinary clinic, I got a couple. Between me and eight other veterinarians well, we could have three apiece and each one could own their own clinic. And the reason I’m saying this is not because, I mean, I’m up there doing my own thing trying to take care of my clients right?
But there’s another side of veterinary medicine you guys haven’t even thought about or heard about possibly and that’s corporate veterinary. And the corporate world is heavy into veterinary clinics. They own over 100 I think now in the State of Arkansas, maybe more. Now, you open the box to a bunch of business people.
Sen Caldwell: I’ll give you 30 seconds.
Connor: Sorry. You open the door to a bunch of business people to hire these veterinary technologists, VTSs. What are you going to pay them? They’re going to get taken advantage of. So I’m telling you there’s a crop of mixed animal practice veterinarians coming right now. I’ve hired a bunch of them. I got more coming for you. We’re fixing your problem, we’re fixing it quick. And now there’s getting ready in the next five years there’ll be a glut of those veterinarians. So before you sound the alarm and get all worried about what all is coming, my Senator Scott Flippo said let the market fix itself. That’s what’s about to happen. The market’s dictating the product. You’re going to pass a law that’s very specific to a few to the detriment of many, to solve a crisis that pretty much is solving itself. So think about that.
Sen Caldwell: Thank you, Dr. Connor. Questions from the Committee? Senator Love.
Connor: I’d love for anybody to ask me a question. Nothing? I’ve heard a bunch of people speak for me today.
Sen Caldwell: You sound disappointed.
Connor: I am disappointed. I’ve heard a lot of stuff discussed. By the way, I went to the state vet meeting just to see colleagues and see what they think and why would they be for something or why would be they be against something. Oh, it wasn’t 50/50, it’s easily 90 to 10. Some of it’s misunderstandings, right?
Sen Caldwell: Senator Love, you got a question?
Sen Caldwell: Turn your mic on.
Sen Love: So I guess I’m trying to figure this out because you said that you’re producing more veterinarians. Where are these veterinarians located, are they located in Little Rock, are they located in northwest Arkansas, are they located in the Delta, where are they? I mean, it would be good to have a heat map.
Connor: It’s a great one, yeah. And then let the market shake itself out, right? We lost a local veterinarian to Camden, Arkansas. I’m told nobody wants to live in Camden. No one wants to be in Camden. Shoot, now she moved down there because it’s a better job.
Sen Stone: I want to live in Camden, that’s where I’m from.
Connor: Exactly. By the way.
Sen Stone: For the record, I’m happy.
Connor: By the way, Bradley County boy right here, and I’m telling you, Crossett, Dr. Scarlette White, she’s a classmate of mine. She’s going to get help if she needs it. I promise you it’s coming. Spring Hill, let’s see, I saw somebody, no I think that was Representative Vaught from down there in southeast Arkansas or southwest excuse me. Spring Hill, we have a kid that’s in fourth year at Oklahoma State University wants to do mixed animal practice. And he’s coming back to Arkansas. Most of these kids are coming to Arkansas.
Sen Caldwell: Senator Love, did you get your question answered?
Connor: I mean, I can give you specific names and places and where they’re going or I say where they say they would like to go. And everybody’s hiring but the nice thing, the good news is there’s a crop of people coming. Soon and way more later. I’m a little more worried for the profession in five years again when LSU’s kicking out 220 and Lyon College graduates their first class, and Arkansas State Jonesboro kicks out a class.
Sen Caldwell: Time’s up. Thank you.
Sen Caldwell: Okay, Committee, I want to let you all decide. I’m not going to call. We can do one or two things, we can call for immediate consideration. If someone wants to do that. I’m not suggesting that. The other is that if you want to hear more testimony we can recess. I’ve got a 12:15 meeting. I can be back upon adjournment. We go in at 1:00. I could be back upon the adjournment of the Senate. So I’m not pushing. I have no agenda but other than I have to keep a 12:15. And I’ll let you all– Senator Wallace?
Sen Wallace: I call for immediate consideration.
Sen Caldwell: That’s a non-debatable motion. All in favor of that, say aye. All opposed say no. Okay, immediate consideration.
So we’re going to vote on House Bill 1182 as amended. All in favor of the bill say aye. All opposed say no. The bill passes. Thank you. Appreciate everybody coming. For those who don’t understand immediate consideration, I will explain that. Immediate consideration is non-debatable and it calls for the debate on the bill to stop immediately. And so it passed and that’s what we did.