Oregon veterinarians may soon be subject to mandatory criminal background checks

Oregon veterinarians might soon be required to undergo criminal background checks depending on the outcome of a July 12 vote by the Oregon Veterinary Medical Examining Board (OVMEB), according to the Portland Tribune.

The potential rule comes on the heels of a state audit highlighting the fact that the OVMEB is one of three health-related licensing boards in Oregon that do not require criminal background checks, out of a total of 17.

Due to their access to controlled substances, the state recommended in the audit that veterinarians be subjected to background checks in order to gain licenses.

"Veterinarians have prescribing powers and access to medications that are at risk for misuse," the audit said. "We recommend boards give further consideration to background check policies for professionals who handle drugs or interact with vulnerable populations."

Lori Makinen, OVMEB executive director, told the news that her organization has considered this issue before, but the general opinion has been that background checks would be ineffective at revealing animal abuse or substance abuse by applicants, the Portland Tribune reported.

The OVMEB website also outlined the organization's historical view on the subject of mandatory background checks for veterinary professionals.

"The Board has considered criminal background checks unnecessary due to the dependability of information sharing among state and national enforcement agencies; confidence in veterinary students’ good conduct; and trust in the reliability of mandatory self-reporting," the OVMEB wrote on its website.

Makinen said that although she does expect the veterinary board to "implement background checks in some form," there are some significant factors to consider including the associated costs that will be passed on to licensees.

If the board votes to implement criminal background checks for license applicants, the OVMEB will begin its rulemaking process, consisting of public notice with fiscal/small business impact statements, comment period, and public hearing​. 

Meeting details

The OVMEB will discuss the topic in a public session at its July 12 board meeting. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the Portland Community College - Cascade Campus, 705 N. Killingsworth St., Portland, Ore.

NEWStat Legislation & regulation