Re: Board Policy Guidelines: Dispensing of Veterinary Drugs by a Non-Prescribing Veterinarian During Emergency Situations

Date: July 12, 2007

The Board of Registration of Veterinary Medicine ("the Board") voted today to adopt the following Policy Guideline. This policy guideline is intended as a recommended protocol for the profession to follow. The guideline set forth below does not have the full force and effect of law, as would a Massachusetts General Law or a Board rule or regulation. However, the Board uses policy guidelines as an internal management tool in formulating decisions that relate to issues in the practice of veterinary medicine.

Policy No. 08-01


The purpose of this policy statement is to offer guidance regarding the circumstances in which a non-prescribing veterinarian may dispense prescription drugs to an animal in the Commonwealth, with whom the veterinarian does not have a genuine veterinarian-client patient relationship, during a time of emergency or crisis.


Under normal circumstances, an individual holding a license issued by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine to practice veterinary medicine in the Commonwealth may dispense or prescribe controlled substances only in the course of his or her professional practice after establishing a genuine veterinarian-client patient relationship as required by 256 CMR 7.01(2)(e).

However, it is Board policy that in emergency situations, a non-prescribing veterinarian who does not have a genuine veterinarian-client patient relationship may dispense prescription veterinary drugs to an animal when necessary to save life or relieve suffering. The Board recognizes that all veterinarians should first consider the needs of the patient and act in a manner that relieves disease, suffering, or disability while minimizing pain or fear. In emergencies, veterinarians have an ethical responsibility to provide essential services to animals when necessary to save life or relieve suffering, subsequent to client agreement, even in the absence of a genuine veterinarian-client patient relationship. [See Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics of the American Veterinary Medical Association].

"Emergency situations", for the purpose of permitting the dispensing of prescription veterinary drugs by a non-prescribing veterinarian, means those situations in which the non-prescribing veterinarian who proposes to dispense a prescription veterinary drug determines:

(1) That Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian; and

(2) That the immediate administration of the veterinary drug is necessary for proper treatment of the patient; and

(3) That no appropriate alternative treatment is available, including administration of a controlled substance which is not a veterinary drug; and

(4) That it is not reasonably possible for the licensed veterinarian providing the prescription to dispense the veterinary drug to the patient.

In case of an emergency situation as defined above, a veterinarian who does not have a genuine veterinarian-client patient relationship may dispense a prescription veterinary drug for the immediate treatment of the patient upon receiving authorization from the prescribing licensed veterinarian provided that:

(1) The quantity prescribed and dispensed is limited to the amount needed for the immediate treatment of the patient during the emergency period; and

(2) The prescription contains all the information required in M.G.L. c. 94C; and

(3) The dispensing veterinarian creates a medical record containing all information required in 256 CMR 5.01; and

(4) All veterinary drugs and medications dispensed shall meet the requirements of 256 CMR 5.02; and

(5) The prescription is written, or transmitted by any electronic means, in accordance with M.G.L. c. 94C. If the prescribing veterinarian is not known to the dispensing veterinarian, the dispensing veterinarian must make a reasonable good faith effort to determine that the prescription came from a licensed veterinarian, including a callback to the prescribing veterinarian using his or her phone number listed in the telephone directory or other good faith efforts to verify his or her identity.

For the purposes of this policy, the words "amount needed for the immediate treatment of the patient" shall mean the quantity of a controlled substance that is necessary for the proper treatment of the patient until it is possible for such patient to have a prescription filled by a pharmacy as required by M.G.L. c. 94C, sec. 9.

Authority: M.G.L. Chapter 112, Section 58; and 256 CMR 1.00 et seq.