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SPCA Challenges California Telemedicine Law

The animal welfare group wants to loosen restrictions on veterinarians.

SPCA Challenges California Telemedicine Law

The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is suing over California’s veterinary telemedicine law, saying the constraints are bad for pets and their owners.

“By limiting telemedicine, this law is restricting equitable access to animal care among California’s diverse people and geographic regions,” said Brandy Kuentzel, the San Francisco SPCA’s general counsel.

The California Veterinary Medical Board, which regulates the profession, responded that it does not comment on pending litigation.

According to the SPCA, California law “forbids veterinarians from speaking to owners about an animal’s health over the phone or internet unless they have first met in person.” The lawsuit asks that veterinarians be allowed to engage in telemedicine based on their judgment and training rather than be required to establish a formal veterinarian-client-patient relationship.

“The California Veterinary Medical Board is suggesting they don’t trust veterinarians that they licensed to make sound decisions for animals,” Kuentzel said. “The law not only restricts veterinarians and pet owners’ constitutional right to free speech, it also restricts a pet’s access to veterinary care.”

Telemedicine rules were loosened in some states when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“People can use telemedicine for themselves and their children, so why not for their pets?” Kuentzel said. “Telemedicine can be a vital tool to improve the lives of pets and the people who love them.”

The San Francisco SPCA operates an animal shelter, spay/neuter clinic and veterinary hospital.

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