A veterinarian’s prescription will be required in California before medically important antibiotics can be given to livestock, which includes all animals and poultry that are raised, kept, or used for profit. This includes medically important antibiotics that are now available over the counter, including injectables.
The new state legislation (SB 27) was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. It prohibits administration of medically important antimicrobial drugs to livestock unless ordered by a licensed veterinarian through a prescription or veterinary feed directive. The legislation further prohibits administration of these drugs when used solely to promote weight gain or improve feed efficiency.
As defined in the legislation, the drugs are considered medically necessary if their use is intended to treat or control spread of a disease or infection, if the use is related to surgery or medical procedures, or if their use is a prophylaxis to address an elevated risk of contraction of a disease or infection. These drugs should only be used for the shortest duration necessary and to the fewest animals necessary. Financial penalties will be imposed for each day the rule is violated.
The California Veterinary Medical Association supported the legislation, saying that it will “continue to allow treatment for substantiated purposes and it ensures that a veterinarian is making health-related determinations, making this legislation a true “game changer” in its effort to protect animals and consumer health and safety.
The bill requires the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture, in consultation with the Veterinary Medical Board, the State Department of Public Health, universities, and cooperative extensions, to develop antimicrobial stewardship guidelines and best management practices on the proper use of medically important antimicrobial drugs and would require the department to gather information on medically important antimicrobial drug sales and usage, antimicrobial resistant bacteria, and livestock management practice data.
The California Cattlemen’s Association, says in a statement that it “helped lead the way in securing landmark legislation that will make California a leader in combating antibiotic resistance and ensuring judicious use of antibiotics while protecting ranchers’ ability to provide timely care for their livestock…SB 27 ensures ranchers can continue to use antibiotics effectively to treat, control, and prevent disease.”
Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association, argued in a comment posted in April on porknetwork.com that a total ban on antibiotic use in farm animals would be unwise and “defies common sense” because reducing illness in farm animals can reduce bacterial contamination in meat. Instead of a total ban on antibiotics, veterinarians, public health professionals, and scientists should be determining the appropriate use of antibiotics, she said.