Veterinary board pushing for background checks after KATU investigation

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Days after the On Your Side Investigators exposed local veterinarians with criminal histories, the board that licenses all veterinarians in Oregon proposed changes to implement criminal background checks for vets.

At a July 12 meeting, the Oregon Veterinary Medical Examining Board (OVMEB) voted to propose rule amendments that will allow it to conduct criminal background checks for license applicants as well as expand certified veterinary technician licensure opportunities, According to OVMEB's website.

Members of the board had considered implementing background checks for its licensees in the past but the vote to propose changes came just two days after a KATU investigation about veterinarians.

In Oregon, veterinarians and people applying to be veterinarians are not required to undergo criminal background checks; one of only three health professional groups in the state that escapes this kind of scrutiny. Occupational Therapy and Speech Pathology and Audiology are the other two groups. Those three groups are trusted by their regulatory boards to tell the truth about their criminal background, if they have one.

In 2010, the Oregon Legislature gave all Oregon medical boards the authority to conduct fingerprint-based criminal background checks, but representatives from the speech pathology and occupational therapy boards told the On Your Side Investigators that the legislative fiscal office denied their requests for more money to hire a part-time staff member to perform those background checks.

It means, unless someone tips off the state, occupational therapists, speech pathologist and veterinarians can hide their questionable baggage.

A Secretary of State audit of Oregon's health professional groups, published in March, highlighted that past criminal incidents in these professions could compromise a licensee's ability to perform their job and put the public at risk.

"Veterinarians have prescribing power and access to medications that are at risk for misuse," the audit states. "In contrast, pharmacists, who also have access to medications, undergo criminal background checks for both initial and renewal licensure."

The OVMEB's proposed amendments will be filed with the Secretary of State by August 10.

The board will vote on whether to adopt the proposed rule amendments at its next meeting, scheduled for October 18.