Testimony before the Ohio House Finance Agriculture Subcommittee
March 11, 2015
Good morning, Chair Thompson, Ranking Member O’Brien, Representative Burkley, Representative Cera, and Representative Hall,
I am Beth Sheehan. I live in Cincinnati. I have come to reinforce the testimony of Ms. Theresa Stir, executive director of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Licensing Board (OVMLB), who asked you for additional funds for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. The OVMLB needs these funds in order to strengthen its veterinary oversight program. I am specifically asking for an additional $100,000.
Right now about half of the funds from that licensure passes through the Veterinary Board and into a General Fund, not to be touched by the Veterinary Board. Please release the Veterinary Board’s own funds for use in animal hospital inspections.
Three, primary reasons for having increased animal hospital inspections are community disease control, illegal drugs control, and consumer protection. The Center for Disease Control states that 75% of emerging infectious, human diseases come from animals. These are zoonotic diseases that pass between animal and human species. So, the possibility of disease spread in an unhygienic, animal hospital not only negatively impacts the animals’ health, but also threatens the health of the workers and pet owners. Public health is at stake here.
Veterinarians are licensed to prescribe and have regular access to drugs. Yet, the drugs housed and used in animal hospitals go largely unchecked. The black hole in veterinary oversight leaves a lot of room for bad actors, flying low under the radar, to take advantage. Right now in Ohio there is a background check just once during the career of a veterinarian, when he first applies for his license. In Ohio, that fledgling veterinarian and his animal hospital can both go unchecked and unnoticed for the rest of his career until he retires.
There have been several cases, most notably Alvin Burger of Canton, Ohio and Brandi Tomko of Summit County, Ohio, who were both found guilty of practicing veterinary medicine without a license in their county courts. Where were these individuals getting their veterinary drugs to use in their illegal practice?
Additionally, Lee Ann Givan, DVM, was severely censored by the Tennessee Veterinary Board for a host of behaviors, including illegal use of drugs. What did Dr. Givan do then? She promptly moved to Ohio, where she was issued a license. She was later sanctioned by the OVMLB for getting drugs for her two dogs, but using them herself.
Recently, Michael Smith, DVM, of Zanesville, Ohio, his son, Eryn R. Smith, and Travis E. Ryan, “were indicted following a more than 2-year, multiagency investigation into a prescription drug trafficking ring.” Hopefully, the increased inspections of animal hospitals would be another prong to successfully work against prescription drug trafficking rings in Ohio.
Third, the mission statement of the OVMLB is “consumer protection”. Right now Ohio veterinarians are “on the honor system”. Ohio consumers remain unprotected if the conditions and operations of their animal hospitals are unknown and unmonitored by the state agency that issues the licenses. In fact, it is only in recent months that the number of animal hospitals and their locations became known by the OVMLB.
Finally, I appreciate the opportunity to speak with the Ohio House Finance subcommittee today about the need for the Ohio Veterinary Board to have access to an additional $100,000 of its own money. These funds will be used to increase animal hospital inspections, aimed at protecting public health, monitoring illegal use of drugs, and protecting the consumer.