Va. bill targets people using pets to score painkillers

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — It’s a surprising way addicts are getting a fix — using their pets to score painkillers.

“I’ve seen it in Virginia. Veterinarians have come to me and told me this is an issue,” said Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Moneta).

Stanley introduced legislation targeting the problem.

“We’re seeing that people were harming dogs and cats so they could get opioids prescribed to them. Not for the dog or cat who would then remain in pain but rather to feed their own addiction,” he said.

Veterinarians sometimes prescribe medicine like morphine or fentanyl patches for dogs with cancer, benzos for separation or travel anxiety, valium for dogs with a fear of thunderstorms or tramadol for osteoarthritis.

“In those cases, you’re talking about, depending on the weight of the dog, as many as 100 to 180 tramadol a month,” said Susan Seward. “That’s a lot of drugs out there.”

Seward, a lobbyist for the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, worked with Stanley on the legislation.

SB226 would require any opiate prescribed by a veterinarian for longer than seven days to be picked up off site.

“Instead of them being filled by the veterinarian in the clinic, they will send that animal owner and patient to Walgreens, CVS or your local pharmacy,” she said.

When that happens, the owner’s information is put through something called the Prescription Monitoring Program.

“To make sure, if they’re addicted to opioids, they’re not doctor shopping,” explained Stanley.

Supporters said the proposed change would not interfere with treating minor injuries, emergencies or standard post-surgical pain.

“What we don’t want to do is make opioids for animals difficult to get to the point that we lose that remedy,” said Seward.

The bill cleared the Senate in a unanimous vote. It made it out a House committee Tuesday in another unanimous vote. It now heads to the full House for consideration.

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