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Veterinary care regulations that limit telehealth for pets in California are unnecessary

Human health care has long relied on safe and convenient telehealth services to maximize access to medical professionals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual care moved from an option to a necessity because it was essential to minimize the spread of disease, and today, telehealth for humans is commonplace. In all 50 states, physicians can use video technology to establish new doctor-patient relationships and diagnose and treat current and new patients, including infants and nonverbal adults. The availability of telehealth for people was unaffected by the ending of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Unfortunately — and for reasons that simply don’t add up — the same is not true for veterinary telehealth. Outdated regulations currently block California-licensed veterinarians from offering treatment using telehealth services. Despite California’s longstanding reputation as a leader in technological innovation, state regulations prohibit licensed veterinarians from using telehealth to give simple advice and direction to pet owners unless pets are brought into the veterinary hospital. Veterinarians must conduct a new in-person examination each time animals — even regular patients — have new veterinary problems, including minor and common ailments, or even if they simply require routine prescriptions.