ASPCA Commends Florida House for Passing the PETS Act to Expand Access to Veterinary TelehealthThe PETS Act would remove unnecessary regulations blocking Florida veterinarians and pet owners from using telehealth for animals
TALLAHASSEE – 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 Telehealth Services (PETS) Act (H.B. 849), which will expand access to safe, convenient veterinary telehealth. Sponsored by Reps. Sam Killebrew (R-Winter Haven) and James Buchanan (R-North Port), this bill is modeled after Florida’s proven human telehealth provider statute and would empower Florida-licensed veterinarians to use telemedicine technology to treat more animal patients, helping to address ongoing veterinary workforce shortages and bridge gaps in access to care across the state. Sen. Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island) introduced a companion bill in the Senate, which will be heard in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on February 5.
The veterinary industry is facing a critical workforce shortage nationwide, and there simply aren’t enough veterinary professionals to care for all the animals in need. Telemedicine is a lifeline that can extend care to the many pets whose owners face serious financial, geographical, and logistical barriers to accessing veterinary care, including seniors, working families, and those who live in underserved or remote areas with few or no veterinarians. Unfortunately, outdated and unclear regulations in Florida currently prevent veterinarians from providing treatment to pets using telemedicine tools (like video calls), unless they have physically examined the animal in person within the previous 12 months.
“Telehealth can help reduce animal suffering, alleviate financial and logistical barriers to veterinary care, improve pet retention, and extend the capacity of animal shelters to serve animals and their communities. The benefits of telehealth are clear, and with so many Floridians struggling to access veterinary care, empowering veterinarians to use telehealth technology provides another tool in the veterinary care toolkit to reach more pet patients,” said Jennifer Hobgood, ASPCA senior director of state legislation for the Southern Division. “The ASPCA is grateful to Speaker Renner and to Representatives Killebrew and Buchanan for championing the PETS Act in the House, and we look forward to working with Senator Bradley and her Senate colleagues to pass this bill to remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to veterinary telehealth and expand access to veterinary care in Florida.”
A new poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy revealed that 89 percent of registered Florida voters support expanding legal options for veterinarians and pet owners to use telemedicine, and 88 percent of respondents support legislation to give pet owners and veterinarians more flexibility to use telehealth video services to establish a relationship with a veterinarian. This overwhelming public support for legislation to expand access to veterinary telehealth was consistent across political party, race, gender and regardless of whether the respondent lived in a rural or urban setting.
“Florida is a leader in expanding access to telehealth for people, but unnecessary regulations prevent veterinarians in our state from using this essential tool for pets," said PETS Act sponsor Rep. Sam Killebrew. "I’m proud to join with my colleagues Senator Bradley and Representative Buchanan to modernize Florida's veterinary laws to ensure pets and their owners, as well as veterinarians, can benefit from access to safe, convenient telemedicine technology. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to pass the PETS Act so Florida pets can get the care they need, when they need it.”
Like much of the country, Florida pet owners are struggling to access veterinary care for pets, and according to The Veterinary Care Accessibility Project, the Sunshine State has a Veterinary Care Accessibility Score of 43 out of 100 – a failing grade that places Florida near the bottom one-third of states across the country. Additionally, a 2020 study estimated that 75 million pets in the U.S. could be without veterinary care by 2030. Diverting non-urgent or routine cases to telehealth can help bridge gaps in care exacerbated by workforce shortages to connect more animals with care, helping to keep them in loving homes and out of overburdened shelters.
The PETS Act has been endorsed by a broad coalition of state and national organizations, including the ASPCA, Florida Animal Advocacy and Protection Association, Florida Association of Animal Welfare Organizations, Animal Policy Group, Veterinary Virtual Care Association, and the Coalition for the Veterinary Professional Associate. If passed in the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the bill would help more Floridians access critical care for their pets and could help bridge current gaps in care exacerbated by the ongoing workforce shortage of veterinary professionals.
For more information about the ASPCA, or to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit www.aspca.org.