ASPCA Commends Florida House for Passing the PETS Act to Expand Access to Veterinary Telemedicine

The PETS Act would remove unnecessary regulations blocking Florida veterinarians and pet owners from effectively using telemedicine for animals
April 14, 2023

TALLAHASSEE – Today, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commends the Florida House of Representatives for unanimously passing the Providing Equity in Telemedicine Services (PETS) Act (H.B. 1117) by a vote of 109-0. Sponsored by Rep. James Buchanan (R-North Port), this bill would expand access to veterinary telemedicine by empowering licensed veterinarians in Florida to connect with pet owners using the internet or video calls. The PETS Act will help countless Floridians access lifesaving virtual veterinary care by removing outdated and unclear regulations that prevent veterinarians from providing treatment unless they have first physically examined the animal.

According to the Veterinary Care Accessibility Project, many counties across the Sunshine state have low access to veterinary care. The state of Florida has an overall Veterinary Care Accessibility Score of 43 out of 100 – placing Florida near the bottom third of states across the country. The PETS Act would help more people access timely veterinary care for their pets.

“Telemedicine makes vet care more accessible and has countless benefits for pet owners, veterinarians and animals. Unfortunately, outdated regulations in Florida severely restrict veterinarians from using virtual appointments,” said Jennifer Hobgood, ASPCA senior director of state legislation for the Southern Division. “The ASPCA is grateful to Representative Buchanan and Senator Ingoglia for championing the PETS Act, which will remove government barriers to veterinary telemedicine, and we urge the Senate to follow the House’s lead by passing this bill to expand access to virtual veterinary care in Florida.”

“Florida continues to be a leader in expanding access to telemedicine in human healthcare, but unnecessary regulations currently block veterinarians in our state from utilizing this essential tool for pets," said PETS Act sponsor Rep. James Buchanan. "I’m proud to be leading the effort in the House to update Florida's veterinary laws to ensure pets and their owners, as well as veterinarians, can benefit from access to safe, convenient telemedicine technology, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to advance the PETS Act to provide more care to pets who need it."

Telemedicine was essential to ensuring pet owners could access veterinary care during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Hurricane Ian reinforced the need for Florida pet owners to have access to this valuable tool during times of crisis and beyond to help bridge gaps in care, including those exacerbated by an ongoing workforce shortage of veterinary professionals. Virtual vet care is especially helpful for senior citizens with pets, working families, and those who face challenges accessing pet care due to transportation issues, or because they live in remote or underserved areas.

A new ASPCA survey revealed that one quarter of pet owners said there was a time in the past two years when they wanted or needed veterinary care and were not able to get it. Additionally, more than two-thirds of respondents (69 percent) that had an unmet need for veterinary care in the past two years reported an interest in using veterinary telemedicine if it were available, and two out of three respondents (66 percent) reported that they would see a veterinarian more often if telemedicine were available.

There is also widespread support in Florida, with a 2020 Mason-Dixon Poll revealing that 84 percent of registered Florida voters support the expansion of legal options for veterinarians to provide telemedicine in Florida. Additionally, the PETS Act has been endorsed by a broad coalition of state and national organizations, including the ASPCA, Florida Animal Control Association, Florida Association of Animal Welfare Organizations, Best Friends Animal Society, Animal Policy Group, and Americans for Prosperity.

With the Florida Legislature scheduled to adjourn on May 5, this legislation must be passed by the Senate in order to be sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis to be signed into law.

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