Frequently Asked Questions
Below are frequently asked questions that the MVMA office staff has received. Please contact the office if you have a question that isn't mentioned here and we'd be happy to help you (or point you in the right direction)!
Please note: The MVMA does NOT offer legal advice. For specific questions related to the practice of veterinary medicine in the state of Massachusetts, contact the Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine at firstname.lastname@example.org
Click on one of the below topics to jump through the FAQ page or simply scroll through for answers to all questions.
|General Practice||Prescriptions||Rabies||Mobile and Relief Veterinarians|
|Continuing Education||Controlled Substances||Microchips||Complementary Medicine|
Q: How long is it required to keep medical records, including x-rays?
A: Four (4) years after the last contact with the animal, even if the animal is deceased. Read more HERE.
Q: Does the Board have specific regulations or guidelines related to electronic medical records (EMR)?
A: No, The Board’s regulations regarding medical records are applicable to any medical record created and/or maintained by a licensed veterinarian. There may be some additional information on the same in the Board’s policies Board Policies and Guidelines (Veterinary Medicine) | Mass.gov but the Board does not otherwise have guidance specific to electronic medical records.
Q: Are veterinarians allowed to hold an animal or withhold medical records if there is an outstanding open amount owed to the practice?
A: No, a veterinarian may not hold an animal even if there is money owed. Regarding medical records, upon the request of the owner, a licensee shall provide copies of medical records and radiographs to the owner of an animal or another veterinarian. A reasonable fee may be charged for the cost of such copies. Read the full text HERE.
Q: Can I release medical records without an owner's consent?
A: Unless you suspect abuse/cruelty and are going to report it to the authorities or if there is a legal order demanding the records, you should treat the records as confidential. See 7:01(g) under the Board of Registration's Rules and Regulations - Code of Professional Conduct HERE.
Q: How can I dispose of animal remains if an owner does not claim them?
A: You must give notice of the intention to dispose of remains of an abandoned animal to the owner's last known address by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested. You must allow a period of 10 days to elapse after the receipt if returned before disposing of the animal (General Laws/Part I/Title XVI/Chapter 112/Section 59A).
Q: Are prescription medications and prescription pet food exempt from MA sales tax?
A: No. According to the MA Department of Revenue in a call in July 2021, only prescriptions for humans are tax-exempt. CLICK HERE (and see section 6L) for the citation from the Department of Revenue. Because there is no mention of animals, it is to be assumed that this references humans only. Tax authorities confirmed that everything but veterinary services are taxed. CLICK HERE for the AVMA's chart of state taxes imposed on veterinary sales and services.
Q: Do you have to be a licensed veterinarian to own a practice in Massachusetts?
A: In Massachusetts, non-veterinarians can own practices but it depends on the legal business structure of a veterinary practice. Professional corporations under MGL 156A must be owned by licensed professionals. Other forms of business, such as a sole proprietorship or a partnership, do not require that owners be licensed veterinarians.
Per the Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine guidelines on practice - 256 CMR 5.06 - "In those facilities/practices which are not owned by a licensed veterinarian, the owner(s) shall appoint a licensed veterinarian as the Veterinary Medical Director."
If in doubt, we advise you seek the opinion of an attorney versed in corporate law in the Commonwealth.
Q: How do I know which materials are considered hazardous and how to dispose of them if they are?
A: Discarded chemicals, off-specificiation products, and liquid or solid residues are regulated as "hazardous waste" if they are: corrosive (pH of less than 2 or 12.5 and greater), ignitable (flash point of 140 F), reactive with water or acid, or toxic as determined by a special laboratory test. Mass Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) produced a flyer to help you HERE.
Q: Can the Board of Veterinary Medicine perform inspections on the weekend?
A: They have gone on-site on weekends. However, they don’t perform random inspections on weekends as most places have limited hours or are closed then. On occasion, when they are investigating a specific allegation, they may go on a weekend if necessary. Source: Leija Meadows, Board Administration.
Q: Can I turn away a veterinary inspector?
A: The Board conducts impromptu Inspections. There is an automatic $500.00 fine to turn away a state veterinary inspector. Therefore, prepare your staff in the event of your absence.
Q: Is a radiation license required for new x-ray machines?
A: Yes, you do need to obtain a license. What needs to happen is you will have to get a Shielding Design Package sent to you (if you call the RCP they will send it out). This package will let you know what needs to be submitted, which includes how the x-ray machine will be built in the facility. An inspection will then be done to make sure everything is safe and the machine was built according to what was submitted. There is also a fee involved in this process. (Learn more on the Mass Radiation Control website or contact 617-242-3053 (RadiationControl@massmail.state.ma.us).
Q: Can I vaccinate a pet without owner consent?
A: No. Per the Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine, you must obtain consent from the owner unless otherwise exempted by the regulations.
Q: What are the guidelines related to telemedicine in Massachusetts?
A: The Board of Registration does permit the use of telemedicine when appropriate only after a VCPR is first established. Read the full policy HERE.
Q: Can I refuse to treat an animal that comes to my clinic in an emergency?
A: A licensee shall NOT refuse to provide first aid or advice for an animal already on the premises in an emergency situation, or to help identify an alternate source of veterinary medical care. (See 256 CMR 7.00 Code of Professional Conduct). Furthermore, licensees shall conform to currently-accepted professional and scientific standards in the profession such as but not limited to the AVMA Principles, which state that "In emergencies, veterinarians have an ethical responsibility to provide essential services for animals when necessary to save lives or relieve suffering."
Q: I have a new graduate who has passed boards but is awaiting their license. Can they see cases under my license if I oversee all the cases?
A: No, if they are not licensed (AKA if they are unlicensed) to practice they cannot practice as a veterinarian under someone else's license. The scope of practice for veterinarians is outlined in the statute. If their application is pending they are unlicensed.
Q: How many hours of CE may I obtain online?
A: Licensed Veterinarians are required to complete a minimum of 15 continuining education credits per calendar year to renew a license. All credits can be obtained online but at least 9 must be "interactive" (instruction occurs live in real time and interaction occurs between the instructor and licensee). 6 online credits can be "non-interactive" (pre-recorded for home study). Read more HERE.
Q: Do I have any options if I am unable to complete the annual CE requirements needed to renew my license?
A: The Board may, at its discretion, fully waive or extend the deadline of the continuing education requirements for any licensee who, for reasons of health, disability, out of state military service, or undue hardship, cannot meet the requirements. Licensees shall submit such requests to the Board in writing. The Board can make exceptions/grant extensions under certain circumstances. Contact them directly to see if you are eligible: Phone 617-701-8723; Email email@example.com. Read more HERE.
Q: Do new licensees/new graduates have to complete all CE requirements?
A: Per the Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine, new licensees are exempt from CE requirements for the license period that includes the date of initial licensure, unless the new license was obtained by reciprocity. The Board does encourage new licensees to voluntarily take CE during the first year, though. HERE is the full citation.
Q: What information is required to be on prescription labels?
A: Read guidelines from the Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine HERE. You can purchase tamper-resistant pads through Curry Printing. Click HERE to go to their order portal.
Q: Is a client allowed to take a prescription to whatever pharmacy they prefer?
A: Yes, at the request of a client a veterinarian shall provide prescription to the pharmacy of choice. A licensee shall provide prescription information to an off-site pharmacy or a written prescription to the client if requested. The prescription may be written or transmitted by any electronic means at the discretion of the prescribing licensee and in accordance with M.G.L. c. 94C. Read more HERE.
Q: Am I required to provide electronic prescriptions? Some pharmacies are telling me I MUST use electronic prescribing.
A: No. Veterinarians are exempt from e-prescribing regulations. CLICK HERE for the exemption language (page 2 under Exceptions):
- Prescriptions issued by veterinarians. This exception is available to all licensed veterinarians with a Massachusetts Controlled Substance Registration (MCSR).
Q: Am I allowed to charge a fee to write a hard copy prescription for a client?
A: There is no federal law preventing your veterinarian from charging you a fee for their services and time invested in writing a prescription. Some veterinarians charge a nominal fee for writing prescriptions, but others don't. Individual states might have specific guidance for veterinarians on prescription fees. Read more HERE.
Q: Can veterinary clinics fill prescriptions for other veterinarians to use?
A: No, a veterinary clinic cannot act as a drug supplier for other veterinarians. (Source: Leija Meadows, Board Administration)
Q: What are the current regulations regarding prescribing Gabapentin?
A: While the FDA has NOT changed the schedule of Gabapentin, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has added it to the list of drugs that must be reported to the Prescription Monitoring Program. While this does not affect veterinarians, it does affect pharmacies when dispensing Gabapentin. Read more HERE.
Q: Pharmacies are requesting a DEA number for Schedule VI (non-controlled drugs) that don't otherwise require DEA information. What should I do?
A: If a DEA number is requested when it is not necessary, the veterinarian should have the pharmacy contact their IT Department/Help Desk to walk them through the data entry process without it. The Board of Pharmacy has sent many reminders out to pharmacies and can re-address with the corporate entities such as CVS and Walgreens. Citation: Board of Pharmacy email correspondence 2022 April 14.
Q: Can I keep a digital log of controlled substances in MA or does it have to be on paper?
A: Computerized logs are acceptable but you must be sure to do periodic spot checks for accuracy. You must be able to pull reports identifying date, client, patient, drug, and amount in the event you are inspected. The balance on hand need not be on the report but must be easily available for verification. The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine does not have additional requirements for digital logs and directs you to confer with Federal DEA regulations. See more in the article Keeping Controlled Drugs Under Control from VIN.
Q: Can Tramadol prescriptions be transmitted via fax?
A: Yes. On August 18, 2014, the DEA placed Tramadol into Schedule IV of the Controlled Substance Act. As a Schedule IV medication, it is permissible to fax a prescription for Tramadol from a Physician/Veterinarians’ office to a pharmacy for filling. Read more HERE.
Q: Is there a limit to how much Tramadol can be prescribed at one time?
A: The prescription for Tramadol, as a controlled substance, may only be issued by an individual practitioner who is either registered with the DEA or exempt from registration. 21 CFR 1306.03.A prescription for a controlled substance must also be issued for a legitimate medical purpose by an individual practitioner acting in the course of his professional practice. 21 CFR 1306.04(a). Upon the effective date of this rule, Tramadol prescriptions may be filled up to six months after the date prescribed, and may be refilled up to five times within six months after the date on which such prescription was issued. 21 U.S.C. 829(b); 21 CFR 1306.22 (a)and (e); see also 21 CFR 1306.23 (b)and (c). In addition, there are no dosage unit limitations for prescriptions for schedule III, IV, or V controlled substances unless the controlled substance is prescribed for administration to an ultimate user who is institutionalized. 21 CFR 1306.24(c).Read more HERE.
Q: Can you tell me more about what I need to dispense controlled substances?
A: In MA all substances are considered controlled. Veterinarians must register with MCSR before registering with the DEA. Each individual vet in MA must have his/her own MCSR and DEA registration for schedule II - VI, as the state doesn't register animal/veterinary practices/hospitals. Hospital DEA registration only applies to human medicine. Prescriptions for schedule II - V drugs require a DEA number but not for schedule VI medications. Schedule VI prescriptions must have the MCSR number provided.
Q: What is a Schedule VI drug?
A: Schedule VI drugs consist of all prescription drugs which are not included in Schedules II-V. This is a special Massachusetts schedule (MGL 94C, 105 CMR 720.002). MGL 94C Section 3 states: “SCHEDULE VI.— (A) The substance is a prescription drug; and (B) Said prescription drug has not been included in Schedules I through V.” In short, this states that Schedule VI substances are any “normal” prescriptions that are not considered controlled substances in other states. Some examples of drugs that would fit into Schedule VI are antibiotics and “maintenance meds,” such as penicillin, azithromycin, metoprolol, simvastatin, lisinopril, gabapentin, levothyroxine, metformin, etc. Read more from MCSR HERE.
Q: What about cannabis and CBD products?
A: CBD/THC cannot be marketed for animals as dietary supplements. There are currently no approved animal drugs that contain cannabis. FDA has, however, approed one cannabis-derived and three cannabis-related human drug products. Examples of what FDA has indicated it considers to be therapeutic claims associated with the marketing of CBD products for animals include:
- "...CBD and other chemicals found in cannabis have an antitumor effect and could be used to improve standard treatments..."
- "Due to its anti-inflammatory effect, cannabinoids may provide relief of joint pain and swelling, and decrease joint destruction and disease progression..."
- "...how [product] may help your dog or cat...reduce cancer-associated symptoms, aid in decreasing severity of dementia, reduce bronchial spasm in asthmatics..."
- "...for all pets, but especially for those with arthritis, allergies, anxiety or behavior issues, compromised immune systems, diabetes, digestive issues, nausea, chronic pain, cancer, seizures..."
Here are additional cannabis-related resources:
AVMA Cannabis use and pets - HERE
AVMA Cannabis regulatory status FAQ (Members Only) - HERE
AVMA Cannabis as Drug, Food, or Supplement - HERE
USDA Establishment of Domestic Hemp Production Program - HERE
Article from MassVet News (2020) on CBD and Pets - HERE
Q: If controlled substances are going to be stored at more than one location, do you have to have two separate DEA licenses?
A: Yes,if you're ordering, storing, and dispensing at different facilities you need a license at each facility.
Q: Are there exemptions for an animal to be vaccinated?
A: (d) A licensing authority may grant an exemption from this section for a dog, cat or ferret that:
(i) the local board of health has declared exempt from the rabies vaccination requirement upon presentation of a veterinarian’s certificate stating that because of an infirmity, other physical condition or regimen of therapy, such inoculation is considered inadvisable for a specified period of time for such reasons; (ii) is in transit; or (iii) was brought into the commonwealth temporarily for the sole purpose of display in a show or for exhibition.
(e) This section shall not apply to a dog, cat or ferret housed in a research institution.
The legitimate reasons for exemption relate to allergic reactions resulting in anaphylaxis, or some form of immune mediated disease. Mild reactions like rashes do not outweigh the public health significance of leaving an animal susceptible. Read more HERE.
Q: Can anyone other than a licensed veterinarian administer a rabies vaccination?
A: No, only a licensed veterinary can administer a rabies vaccination. Other vaccines can be given under the immediate supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Technically, a veterinarian may only administer rabies to an animal after a VCPR is established but because it is a public health issue the rules are a little more lenient. Read more HERE.
Q: Can an animal that was intended to be on a 3 year rabies series still do so if they did not receive the primary series?
A: Primary Series- First rabies shot given to an animal, always only good for one year. Next shot is given between 9-12 months. If the animal does not receive primary series, it will never be eligible for 3 year rabies vaccine regardless if it is meant to be for 3 years.
Q: What do I do about a bite of unknown origin?
A: MDAR has a form to be filled out for a bite of unknown origin.
Q: Our order for rabies has been delayed by the distributer. What should we do?
A: If the vaccinating veterinarian does not have rabies tags to issue at the time of vaccination as required by law per MGL 140 section 145 b (b) then it is best to vaccinate the pet now and catch up with the rabies tag at a later time. We recommend the veterinarian provide a statement on letterhead to those receiving vaccines without tags. When the tags do come in, the veterinarian should take all necessary measures to follow up with the clients by providing rabies tags and a valid rabies certificate, including tag number, in accordance with MGL CH 140 section 145B (a). Source: Ashley Kraft, Rabies Program Coordinator with Mass Department of Agricultural Resources.
Q: Do I need to directly supervise my assistant while he or she administers a microchip?
A: Microchipping pets is a veterinary procedure that should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian or under supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Read more HERE.
Q: I am a relief veterinarian and as such work at many practices. Am I required to carry a framed copy of my license with me and display it while I am working at each individual practice?
A: (1) Each veterinarian engaged in practice shall have all current required licenses, certificates and permits on display. This includes a copy of the license certificate to practice veterinary medicine in the Commonwealth, and any applicable certifications by AVMA specialty boards. (2) Each licensee practicing at a location where the display of certificates is not possible or practical shall have on his/her person a license card as proof that his/her license is current. Read more HERE.
Q: I employ a relief veterinarian in my practice to fill in for staff who are out on vacation or other types of extended leave. Do I have to pay them as an employee, or are they considered an independent contractor?
A: In Massachusetts, most people who work or provide services are considered employees under the law. There is a 3-part test for an employer who wants to treat someone as an independent contractor whereby you have to show that the work: 1) is done without the direction and control of the employer; and 2) is performed outside the usual course of the employer's business; and 3) is done by someone who has their own, independent business or trade doing that kind of work. Relief veterinarians generally perform the same work in the normal course of business as would the person they are filling in for, and so generally speaking, should be treated as an employee under the law. Read more HERE.
Q: I'm interested in becoming a mobile veterinarian. Can you tell me what I need to know?
A: First and foremost, we would recommend you contact the Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine with specific questions about practice and refer to 256 CMR5 found HERE. That being said, here are some regulations directly from the Board that relate to mobile practice:
5.06: Practice Standards and Facilities (1) Veterinary Medical Director. All Veterinary Facilities, including but not limited to, Emergency Service Veterinary Facilities, and Mobile Clinics are required to appoint a Veterinary Medical Director, as defined in 256 CMR 2.01: Veterinary Medical Director.
(5) Requirements of Mobile Practice. A mobile practice shall have the ability and equipment to provide care at a level commensurate with the specific veterinary medical services it is providing.
3.06: License Display (2) Each licensee practicing at a location where the display of certificates is not possible or practical shall have on his or her person a license card as proof that his or her license is current.
Q: If I work out of two clinics, go on a house call with controlled substances ordered from one clinic, and finish my day closer to the other clinic, can I bring the controlled substances back to the closer clinic?
A: No, drugs must be returned to the facility from which they originated.
Q: What is the protocol for chiropractic practice of non-human vertebrates?
A: It is not illegal for human chiropractor to administer care, but there are certain guidelines.
1) There must be a written referral/direct authorization from the animal's vet and;
2) The appointment cannot take place where the chiropractor works on humans.
Read more HERE.
Q: What are the guidelines for complementary and alternative veterinary medicine?
A: Read the guidelines HERE.