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Veterinarians seek immunity for reporting animal cruelty

Joni Scheftel, president of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association, testifies on HF1530, sponsored by Rep. Jeanne Poppe, left. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Veterinarians operate under a mandate to report animal cruelty when they encounter it. But they are not immune to civil or criminal prosecution for doing so, according to Joni Scheftel, president of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association.

With approval and referral of HF1530 to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division, the House Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Division moved forward Tuesday an effort to remedy that situation.

Sponsored by Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin), the bill would offer immunity to licensed veterinarians who, in the course of normal business, report animal cruelty. It would also offer them immunity when the reporting veterinarian euthanizes a suffering animal they deem unlikely to recover.

“Mandated reporting and immunity go hand in hand,” Scheftel said. “… Fortunately this type of thing we are talking about is very rare.”

Scheftel assured legislators the potential change, developed with producer input, could not be used to shield people trespassing into cattle barns.

“We tried to be narrow and precise,” Poppe said.

Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne) sponsors the companion, SF1517. It is scheduled to be heard Thursday by the Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Policy Committee.

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