In the fall election of 2009, Ohio voters amended the state constitution to create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards, putting into motion an effort to establish standards of care for all forms of livestock in the state, and making those standards part of Ohio’s law. Part of this effort was sponsored by farm organizations within the state concerned that extremist animal rights activists might make a similar effort that would be detrimental to Ohio’s livestock industry. Because llamas and alpacas had been accepted as livestock species in Ohio, standards were developed specific to them.
In early 2010 the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board was created and within a very short time its 13 members including the Ohio Department of Agriculture Director and the State Veterinarian, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. An Executive Director was soon hired as well. The Board’s continuing purpose is to assure better care of livestock and establish policies to promote safe and affordable food, help prevent the outbreak of both animal and human diseases, and encourage local food production.
A tremendous effort was made by the Board to make the process of creating the standards of care as transparent as possible. Several meetings were scheduled around the state in May of 2010 to encourage comment and participation of stakeholders. Subcommittees were established to address the care specific to individual livestock species and a subcommittee was established specifically for alpacas and llamas.
The first product of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board was the Euthanasia Standards. The methods outlined are clear and practical and specific for the different species. Soon to follow were the recommendations by the Board for civil penalty rules that will be used to enforce newly created livestock care standards. In August of this year, the Board announced that the remaining standards for each species had been completed and another set of meetings occurred across the state to review the standards and answer questions. On September 29, 2011, the Standards went into effect and the finished product can be viewed at: http://ohiolivestockcarestandardsboard.gov.
Some alpaca and llama breeders are concerned that the standards in the section applying to all livestock states the following in section 901:12-3-05 Health. (A) Prescription and extra-label medications must only be obtained and administered to livestock with the advice and involvement of a licensed veterinarian in the context of a valid Veterinary-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR). Ohio Revised Code defines the VCPR: A veterinary-client-patient relationship serves as the basis for interaction between veterinarians, their clients, and their patients. A veterinary-client-patient relationship exists when all of the following conditions have been met:
- A veterinarian assumes responsibility for making clinical judgments regarding the health of a patient and the need for medical treatment, medical services, or both for the patient, and the client has agreed to follow the veterinarian’s instructions regarding the patient.
- The veterinarian has sufficient knowledge of the patient to initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis of the medical condition of the patient. In order to demonstrate that the veterinarian has sufficient knowledge, the veterinarian shall have seen the patient recently and also shall be acquainted personally with the keeping and care of the patient either by examining the patient or by making medically appropriate and timely visits to the premises where the patient is kept.
- The veterinarian is readily available for a follow-up evaluation, or has arranged for emergency coverage, in the event the patient suffers adverse reactions to the treatment regimen or the treatment regimen fails. Effective Date: 10‑12‑2006
Some feel that this portion of the Standards might become problematic for alpaca and llama breeders who are using almost all medications off label and must often work with veterinarians that are limited in experience with camelids. Time will tell if this does become a problem, but the reasoning for such language is to prevent the use of medications without consulting a veterinarian. Leaving a veterinarian out of the loop and initiating treatment as the caregiver without adequate diagnosis is not in the best interest of the livestock and can have terrible consequences for the animal. The reality is that if the owner is caring for their alpacas well, involving their veterinarian when an alpaca becomes ill or needs medical attention, there will be no reason for them to come under investigation.
Regardless, as an Ohioan, I am very pleased with the way the Livestock Care Standards Board has handled the process for our state’s livestock industry. Through the entire process they have kept livestock owners involved and informed and have offered many opportunities to share their concerns and provide input. I would also encourage other states to follow Ohio’s lead for the betterment of their livestock industries.