Feb 5, 2024 - Politics

Animal lovers start political catfight about veterinary care in Colorado

Illustration of a megaphone made out of the dome of the Colorado State Capitol.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

An actual catfight is expected this week at the state Capitol.

State of play: State lawmakers and animal welfare advocates are offering competing solutions to address the state's veterinarian shortage, one through legislation and the other at the ballot box.

  • The pending legislation and ballot measure take diametrical approaches to telehealth services and the role of veterinary assistants.
  • "It's almost like we're eating our own," state Rep. Karen McCormick, a vet with four decades of experience, told us.

Why it matters: The split between animal-loving allies is part of a big-dollar national fight about the future of animal care.

Zoom in: Today, House lawmakers will consider two bills led by McCormick that seek to protect the current system.

What they're saying: "I want to make sure Colorado stays aligned with the FDA and USDA definition of the [veterinary-client relationship] and we … do not compromise the integrity of veterinary care we deliver across the state," McCormick (D-Longmont) said in an interview.

The other side: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Dumb Friends League are united behind two proposed ballot measures that move in a different direction.

  • Initiative 144 allows vets to use telemedicine for any appointments, including the initial one, as a way to expand access to care.
  • Initiative 145 would create a new veterinary professional associate position that will allow those with master's degrees to conduct exams and treat animals.

What they're saying: "Colorado residents are struggling to access the care they need for their pets and we stand firm in our dedication to provide more resources for pet owners across the state," Apryl Steele, the president and CEO of the Dumb Friends League, said in a statement.

The bottom line: The outcome of the legislative debate will determine whether lawmakers or voters decide these questions.

🔔 This is a regular feature designed to get you smarter, faster about what's happening at the state Capitol.

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