Montana passes licensure bill for veterinary technicians

After years of work by local veterinary technicians, the Montana legislature passed a bill establishing licenses and qualifications for their profession in the state. The state was one of only a few remaining states that did not require a veterinary technician license.

The bill, SB 106, creates qualifications for veterinary technicians under the Montana Board of Veterinary Medicine, outlines a scope for veterinary technicians, and penalizes a person who falsely claims to have a license. It also adds a member to the veterinary committee who represents licensed veterinary technicians. The bill was waiting to be signed by Governor Greg Gianforte when it went to press in early May; if signed, it will come into force in early 2023.

Big Sky Veterinary Technician Association executives and state veterinarians spearheaded drafting the bill.

(From left) Harley Templeton, Shawni Hansen, Marcia Cantrell, Dr. Tierney Olsen, Eli Olind and Dr. Jeanne Ranking stand in the Montana State Capitol in Helena (Photo by Sarah Coffield)

Marcia Cantrell, Big Sky VTA Certification Coordinator and Certified Veterinary Technician, said several years ago that she and other members of the Big Sky VTA board did research into law drafting and attended meetings of the Montana Board of Veterinary Medicine.

“We encountered a lot of resistance,” said Cantrell. “They were afraid of change, but we were slowly wearing them down. … Most people thought we wanted to limit what people could do without a license. That was our greatest challenge. “

The billing language states that a licensed veterinary technician must have completed a program accredited by the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities, including an exam such as the Veterinary Technician National Exam. The bill also allows individuals to obtain a license by demonstrating 4,500 hours of experience and passing a Montana Veterinary Office-approved exam.

Eli Olind, President-elect of Big Sky VTA and a Certified Veterinary Technician, said these new regulations are a huge step forward for the profession in the state.

“It was such a team of people that got through this,” said Olind. “A lot of vets have really stood up and testified on how it will improve their practices.”

The next steps for veterinary technicians in Montana include the rulemaking process, which includes discussions about the scope of the practice and tasks that can be completed under special supervision. The meetings are held by the Montana Veterinary Committee and are open to the public.

Ed Carlson, president of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America and a certified veterinary technician, said the association commends the members of the Big Sky VTA for their efforts and congratulates them on their success.

“As we all know, veterinary technicians are trained members of the veterinary team and provide the necessary care for animals,” said Carlson. “Establishing a uniform licensing standard for veterinary technicians across the country is one of the main goals of NAVTA, so we welcome Montana’s step in the right direction.”

Last year Utah also passed law setting criteria for licensing state-certified veterinary technicians.

Most states regulate the licensing of veterinary technicians, but some don’t, including Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wyoming, according to NAVTA. These states recognize private certifications from veterinary or technical associations that individuals can pursue.