The women that answer the phones for our House Representatives down in Springfield are by and large very pleasant to talk to. A few sound a tad bit put-upon, but most are cordial and several thanked me for my willingness to participate in the democratic process. One even shared with me the fact that she had taken her own dog for massage therapy, and understood my concern over Illinois House Bill 5377 and Senate Bill 3712.

It probably works in my favor that I don’t come off as a total wing nut. But I bet a real pro can be cordial to a wing nut, too.

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The legislation in question, which would amend the Veterinary Medicine and Surgery Practice Act of 2004, and which is expected to be called to the floor tomorrow by its sponsor House Representative Frank Mautino of the 76th District, puts new and, well, innovative, constraints on pet owners seeking the best care and treatments for their animals. The bill would, among other things, make it illegal to choose or access “complimentary, alternative, and integrative therapies” for one’s pet or livestock without a veterinary referral. Among the treatments and services that would become otherwise inaccessible to pet owners, would be any:

complimentary, alternative and integrative therapies includ[ing], but not limited to, veterinary acupuncture, acutherapy, and acupressure; veterinary homeopathy; veterinary manual manipulative therapy based on techniques practiced in osteopathy, chiropractic medicine, or physical medicine and therapy; veterinary phytotherapy, or other therapies defined by the rule

In fact, the restrictions imposed would be much broader than the above list implies. The amendment defines “complimentary, alternative, and integrative therapies” as follows:

a heterogeneous group of preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic philosophies and practices, which at the time they are performed may differ from current scientific knowledge, or whose theoretical basis and  techniques may diverge from veterinary medicine routinely taught in accredited veterinary medical colleges, or both

In other words, veterinarians would become the gatekeepers for all things alternative, including stuff they’ve never heard of, trained in, or practiced. Meanwhile, those with actual experience and skill in the field of alternative therapy would presumably be up a creek.

So why do veterinarians want to become responsible for the administration of all of these popular, but scientifically unproven, treatments and therapies? Well, here’s the interesting part: they wouldn’t be responsible, at least in the event that things went south.

The licensed veterinarian shall maintain responsibility for the veterinarian client patient relationship, but shall be immune from liability in any civil or criminal action if a member providing assistance does not meet the requirements of this item.

The Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association, which incidentally supports the amendment, describes the above addition as “important (and potentially controversial)”.

There are other provocative (or “volatile”, as the ISVMA puts it in their in-depth analysis of the bill) restrictions embedded in the amendment, but the thing I keep coming back to is the absence of any real argument for its necessity.

The ISVMA states that

unregulated and for-profit ‘caregivers’ [can] put the health of the animal and the public at risk.

Really? Because I’m unaware of any statistics on record of any harm being done to animals in Illinois by providers of alternative, complementary, or integrative therapies. The ramifications of the proposed changes, on the other hand, would seem pretty clear:

  • Increased cost and delay of care due to mandated veterinary referrals
  • Competent alternative therapies practitioners put out of work
  • Veterinarians practicing modalities outside the scope of their normal training
  • Unnecessary creation of a monopoly

The Illinois Alliance for Animal Owners Rights (IAAOR) has this to say about HB5377 and SB3712:

Illinois has a thriving alternative natural healing community of professionals and lay practitioners. Passage of these bills will eliminate nutritionists, massage therapists, aromatherapists, homeopaths, behavior specialists, animal communicators, spiritual healers, TTouch practioners and physical therapists, to name a few. It will negatively impact farriers, trainers, equine dentists, animal handlers and wellness service providers. Animals throughout the state will be denied the compassionate and high-quality care these people now provide.

I have an appointment tomorrow to see my chiropractor, the man who gave me the first pain free day I’d had in a decade. And this lucky dog didn’t need a referral.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2010.

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