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Veterinarian Immunity Bill

Working closely with veterinarians, Animal Folks MN introduced a bill (H.F. 787/S.F. 1167) at the State Legislature to provide civil immunity to veterinarians who, in good faith, report animal cruelty. Chief authors are Rep. Dennis Smith and Sen. Karin Housley. Links to the bill:

H.F. 787, author Representative Dennis Smith; co-authors Rep. Lesch, Rep. Slocum

S.F. 1167, author Senator Karin Housley; co-authors Sen. Limmer, Sen. Dibble, Sen. Latz

Status: In the House, H.F. 787 passed the Civil Law and Data Practices Policy committee by unanimous vote on February 14, 2017. In the Senate, S.F. 1167 passed the Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy commmittee by unanimous vote on March 6, 2017. Each bill has been referred to the agriculture policy committees.


Mandate: The State of Minnesota requires veterinarians to report animal cruelty:

• Minn. Rules 9100.0700 subp. 1: "The following acts by a licensed veterinarian are unprofessional conduct and constitute grounds for disciplinary action against the licensee ... (s) failing to report to law enforcement or humane officers inhumane treatment to animals ..."

• Minn. Stat. sec. 346.37 subd. 6: "A veterinarian must report known or suspected cases of abuse, cruelty, or neglect to peace officers and humane agents..."

Outlier: Unlike most other states with reporting requirements, Minnesota does not have an immunity provision for veterinarians when reporting to law enforcement or humane officers. Of states with mandatory or voluntary reporting standards, 29 provide veterinarians with immunity. Only five, including Minnesota, do not.

Common in other contexts: Immunity provisions exist in several Minnesota statutes to protect other types of mandated reports, such as:

• Minn. Stat. sec. 626.557 (maltreatment of vulnerable adults)

• Minn. Stat. sec. 626.556 (maltreatment of minors)

• Minn. Stat. sec. 626.52 (suspicious wounds)

• Minn. Stat. sec. 626.5561 (prenatal exposure to controlled substances)

Public safety issue: There is a proven link between abuse of animals and abuse of children, spouses, and elders. Investigations of animal abuse may uncover or prevent violence against vulnerable people.

"If somebody is harming an animal, there is a good chance they also are hurting a human. If we see patterns of animal abuse, the odds are that something else is going on."

- John Thompson, deputy executive director, National Sheriffs Association






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