Governor Newsom Signs AB 1399 (Friedman), Despite Opposition from Veterinary Medical Board


By Alexandra Harten

Governor Newsom signed AB 1399 (Friedman) on October 8, 2023 (Chapter 475, Statutes of 2023), despite opposition from the California Veterinary Medical Board. The bill allows the formation of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship through remote methods, relaxing veterinary telemedicine requirements so that new patients may receive remote care without first attending an in-person visit. Existing law requires all veterinary premises to be registered with the Board. This bill would exempt from registration a location where a veterinarian practices telehealth if specified conditions are met, including, among other things, that the veterinarian does not perform any in-person examination or treatment of animal patients at that location, et al.

At its April 20, 2023, meeting, the Board voted to oppose AB 1399. Further, the Board authorized its Executive Officer to contact the author of the bill, Assemblymember Laura Friedman, and stakeholders to express the Board’s concerns.

According to the author, the Veterinary Medicine Practice Act has “unreasonably prohibited veterinarians from giving simple advice and direction to pet owners . . . .” On April 24, 2023, VMB notified the author of its opposition to AB 1399 and enumerated its concerns, stating that “eliminating the initial in-person physical examination may lead to incorrect or delayed diagnoses and treatment, which could cause harm or serious injury to the animal patient.” The Board also expressed concerns that if AB 1399 is enacted, “consumers would likely assume that a telemedicine video physical exam is equivalent to an in-person exam, when, in fact, they are not.” It also contended that “AB 1399 would allow a veterinarian to create a veterinarian-client-patient relationship by using real-time video communication, without requiring the veterinarian to perform an in-person examination throughout a patient’s entire lifetime.”

On July 10, 2023, VMB’s Executive Officer testified before the Senate Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development to express the Board’s concerns. After testimony, the author addressed some of the Board’s concerns with amendments. However, the author did not accept the 14-day limitation to prescriptions without an in-person examination. In addition, the Executive Officer expressed concern that the bill is too broad and does not authorize the Board to limit telemedicine practice.

At its July 19, 2023, meeting, VMB staff updated the Board on the status of the bill and its negotiations with the author. After discussion, the Board maintained its “Oppose, Unless Amended” position.


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