Veterinary committee created with 6 appointees

Veterinarian Mike Stanford (left) prepares to administer a vaccine as veterinary tech Savanna Behning holds Boo the dog at the Best Friends Animal Society of Northwest Arkansas in Bentonville in this May 10, 2023 file photo. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

The Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission on Friday created a new Veterinary Medical Examining Committee and appointed six new members to it.

The commission voted unanimously to seat Bill Hewat, Mike Pallone, Sara Throne, Rob Conner, Sarah Kline and Catherine Williams on the new committee.

The commission was tasked with creating the committee to make recommendations to commissioners related to evaluating applications for veterinary licensing or certifications in Arkansas, rulemaking, ethical complaints and disciplinary issues, according to Act 691, which was passed by the state legislature in spring.

Cara Tharp, who works with the state Department of Agriculture, explained the duties of the new committee to commissioners on Friday, she said the new committee will have the rulemaking authority to set standards for the practice of veterinary medicine in Arkansas.

"With Act 691 we're going to have these newly formed committees, so as we progress in that, I'll be the person working with the committee," Tharp said.

As of Friday, Tharp said there are 1,742 total veterinary licenses in Arkansas -- that includes 1,124 veterinarians with an active status -- there are currently 24 temporary permits issued, 176 active veterinary technicians, 197 corporate practice registrations and two non-veterinarian embryo transfer technicians.

There are also currently more than 30 complaints to be investigated, Tharp said.

"Commission members, please understand that the next few months will not be normal, from what I understand, there are just a few complaints that come in, but because of the backlog, we'll probably be meeting quite often just to get those done and make sure that we assess those properly," Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Division Director Patrick Fisk said.

Act 691 requires veterinary members serving on the commission be given membership on the new committee and requires the commission chairman to designate an additional two Arkansas licensed veterinarians engaged in small animal veterinary medicine to serve on the new committee.

The act increased the number of members on the commission from seven members to nine and decreased term lengths from seven to five years; the act required at least two members on the commission to be veterinarians and at least one to be engaged mostly in "large animal or food supply veterinary medicine."

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders brought the commission to full membership this month, announcing the appointment of Chad Chester and Sara Throne to the commission on Oct. 23; the terms of both will expire on Jan. 14, 2028.

On Oct. 2, Sanders announced the appointment of Mike Pallone to the commission to replace Christopher Kauffman, with Pallone's term set to expire Jan. 14, 2028.

The commission also approved former vice chairman Tyler Davis to take over as chairman, replacing Marcus Creasy and approved commissioner Danny Wright as the new vice chairman to start January 2024.