A veterinarian examines a dog in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

The San Diego Humane Society on Thursday urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign an Assembly bill into law that would allow veterinarians to conduct tele-health visits.

In California, a number of counties have low access to veterinary care and the statewide accessibility score is 47 out of 100, according to the Veterinary Care Accessibility Project. Additionally, a study from Banfield Pet Hospital estimates that 75 million pets in the U.S. could be without veterinary care by 2030 if approaches to care are not updated.

“We urge Gov. Newsom to sign AB 1399 for its countless benefits to pet owners and shelters across the state,” said Dr. Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the local Humane Society. “Right now, veterinarians can only give medical advice after seeing pets in person – and the wait times can be long and stressful.

He called the situation “even more dire for shelter animals in low-attention regions” of the state, adding that for some shelters, the closest veterinarian is 50 or more miles away.

Assembly Bill 1399, introduced by Assembly members Laura Friedman, D- Burbank, and Josh Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, passed the legislature this week with bipartisan support.

Current California law requires veterinarians to conduct a new in-person examination each time that an animal – even a regular patient – has a new problem, including minor and common ailments or for routine prescriptions, according to a Humane Society statement.

“When used responsibly, veterinary telehealth can reduce animal suffering, address financial and logistical barriers to veterinary care, keep pets in their homes and extend the capacity of animal shelters to serve animals and their communities by increasing access to veterinary care,” said Brittany Benesi, the western senior director of state legislation for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

She called it “imperative” that officials update the law “given the critical shortage of veterinarians.”

Newsom has until Oct. 14 to sign the bill.

– City News Service