Colorado Veterinary Practice Act bill moves forward; key issues include technician regulation and expansion of rabies vaccine administration

Colorado Veterinary Practice Act bill moves forward; key issues include technician regulation and expansion of rabies vaccine administration

The Colorado Veterinary Practice Act is one step closer to being continued until 2033 following a report made to the House Agriculture, Livestock, and Water Committee at the state capitol.

CVMA President Ashley Ackley, DVM, Practice Act Task Force Chair Michelle Larsen, DVM, CVMA lobbyist Leo Boyle, and CVMA CEO Diane Matt represented CVMA during the committee hearing on Monday, January 31. Representative Karen McCormick, DVM, chair of the committee and CVMA member, led the introduction of the draft bill during the committee process.

The draft bill with amendments was moved forward unanimously by the committee, with all present committee members signing on to be cosponsors of the bill. The bill next will be introduced in the Colorado House of Representatives before February 11. Following introduction, the bill will return to the House Agriculture, Livestock, and Water Committee for second reading, where public testimony will be heard.

Key changes to the Colorado Veterinary Practice Act

The committee voted unanimously to accept the DORA-proposed bill to continue the practice act for 11 years. Additionally, the committee voted to adopt several amendments proposed by CVMA:

1. Adopt Amendment #1 to create regulation for veterinary technicians (this amendment was proposed jointly by CVMA and CACVT)

2. Adopt Amendment #2 that:

  • Allows administration of rabies vaccine under supervision of a licensed veterinarian
  • Amends public health statute 25-4-607 to allow veterinarians to delegate under indirect supervision the administration of rabies vaccinations in a public health emergency situation
  • Allows veterinarians to receive up to 16 hours of credit toward relicensing for continuing education on topics such as client communication, management, leadership, wellbeing and developing a highly function veterinary workforce
  • Requires two hours of jurisprudence continuing education per license renewal period
  • Defines indirect supervision
  • Resolves conflicting language among 12-315-105 (b) and (k) and 12-315-116 regarding duties delegated to veterinary students under direct supervision

3. Adopt Amendment #3 that:

  • Defines a veterinary professional as a licensed veterinarian or a registered veterinary technician
  • Revises the Veterinary Peer Health Assistance Program section to include veterinary technicians and reorganizes it to improve understanding
  • Creates a Veterinary Professional Assistance Program which would offer short-term counseling, work-life balance, and educational services to veterinary professionals

CVMA was pleased that all CVMA-introduced amendments were all accepted into the draft bill language by the committee.

Technician regulation

In particular, CVMA and CACVT were jointly encouraged by the committee’s willingness to adopt regulation of technicians. CVMA and CACVT have been working together to introduce technician regulation since 2020; a joint goal shared by both organizations has been to retain everyone currently working as a veterinary technician in Colorado and to provide inclusive opportunities for regulation. Both organizations were pleased to see legislators take steps toward regulating technicians in Colorado during the bill’s initial hearing.

“Together, we believe that public transparency, expanded access to veterinary personal, and optimal utilization of veterinary staff are crucial for Colorado’s veterinary profession,” said CVMA CEO Diane Matt.

Veterinary professional associate

During the meeting, Dumb Friends League President and CEO Apryl Steele, DVM (also a CVMA member) testified in support of a proposed CSU degree program for a Master’s of Veterinary Clinical Care (MVCC) as a solution to the high demand for veterinary services in Colorado. Graduates would be considered “veterinary professional associates” and would represent a mid-level practitioner in between veterinary technicians and veterinarians. The role of a VPA would be similar to a physician’s assistant in the human medical profession. A VPA would work under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian who would have the authority to delegate diagnosis, initiation of treatment, prescribing, and performing surgery to a competent VPA.

Presently, the Colorado Veterinary Practice Act allows only a veterinarian to diagnose, initiate treatment, prescribe, or perform surgery in Colorado.

CVMA has not introduced an amendment in support of this concept.

Listen to the full committee recording

Interested in listening to the full committee recording, including the testimony provided to the committee by CVMA? A recording of the meeting is available at:

CVMA testimony

Don’t have time to listen to the full committee recording? Read the testimony provided by CVMA CEO Diane Matt below.

Thank you, Representative McCormick and members of the committee. My name is Diane Matt, and I am the CEO of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association. CVMA has 2,600+ members and is the voice of Colorado’s veterinary profession.

I am here today on behalf of CVMA to support the recommendations in DORA’s sunset review as well as the sunrise review recommendation for regulation of veterinary technicians. I ask your favorable consideration of DORA’s bill and the amendments that will be presented today.

Let me put the amendments in context. More than a year ago, CVMA convened an 11-member task force to review the Colorado Veterinary Practice Act and develop recommendations for changes. The overarching issue identified by the task force is that the supply of veterinarians and veterinary technicians is not sufficient to meet Colorado’s current or future needs. Access to veterinary care is at risk due to a number overlapping factors:

  • Demand for veterinary services in Colorado has increased significantly and is expected to continue. Veterinarians across the state are all at or over capacity: in rural Colorado; for subsidized care providers; emergency and specialty care; and general practitioners are all at capacity. This high demand is expected to continue – a 17% increase in employment is projected between 2020 and 2030.
  • However, the veterinary workforce is already stretched thin. Many jobs go unfilled – 66% of job postings on a national veterinary career board get no applicants. Corporate veterinary practices have taken the unprecedented step of offering signing bonuses.
  • Dissatisfaction within the profession is high – only 33% of veterinarians would recommend becoming a veterinarian. 44% of veterinarians have considered leaving the profession.
  • Suicide and burnout in the profession is high compared to the general population. One in six veterinarians has contemplated suicide.
  • Serious psychological and moral distress, combined with poor work-life balance, work overload, and low compensation all contribute to burnout and compassion fatigue.

Colorado cannot afford to have veterinarians leave the profession. We need an efficient, effective, productive, veterinary profession to meet the needs of business, industry, and consumers. All three amendments offered today are intended to ensure that Colorado’s veterinary workforce can advance animal health in Colorado. We are happy to respond to any questions you have, and I again, I ask you to consider all three amendments favorably.