Model Laws

Prohibiting the Non-Therapeutic Use of Medically-Important Antimicrobial Drugs to Livestock


Read Commentary


Sec. 1. Rational

The routine use of medically-important drugs in livestock has contributed to a significant risk to human health. Each year more than two-million people in the United States become seriously infected by bacteria that are resistant to one or more of the antibiotics that are regularly used to treat similar infections. More than 23,000 people die each year as a result of antibiotic-resistant infections. Urgent action is necessary in order to control the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. In addition to human health concerns, the welfare of billions of animals is at stake. The use of antibiotics in livestock is used to prevent the rampant spread of disease in concentrated animal feeding operations where animals are kept in filthy and unventilated facilities.


Sec. 2. Definitions

(a) Medically-Important Antimicrobial Drug: Any drug used on humans or intended for use on humans to treat or prevent disease or infection.


(b) Livestock: All animals and poultry, including aquatic and amphibian species that are raised, kept or used for profit. Livestock does not include bees or those species that are usually kept as pets, such as dogs, cats, and pet birds


(c) Veterinary Feed Directive: A written statement issued by a licensed veterinarian in the course of the veterinarian's professional practice.


Sec. 3. Permitted Use of Medically-Important Antimicrobial Drugs

((a) A medically-important antimicrobial drug shall not be administered to livestock unless ordered by a licensed veterinarian through a prescription or veterinary feed directive, pursuant to a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.


(b) A medically-important antimicrobial drug may be used when, in the professional judgment of a licensed veterinarian, the medically important antimicrobial drug is:

  1. Necessary to treat a specific disease or infection or
  2. Necessary in relation to surgery or a medical procedure.

(c) A medically-important antimicrobial drug shall be administered to the fewest number of livestock for the shortest duration necessary to prevent transmission of the disease or infection.


(d) The veterinarian who determines that the administration of a medically-important antibiotic to livestock is necessary shall specify an end date for the provision of the antibiotic to the animal.


(e) A person shall not administer a medically-important antimicrobial drug to livestock solely for purposes of promoting weight gain, improving feed efficiency or conducting routine disease prevention.


Sec. 4. Penalties

(a) A person who violates this chapter shall be liable on first offense for a civil penalty of not more than two-hundred and fifty dollars ($250) for each day a violation occurs.


(b) For a second or subsequent violation, a person who violates this chapter shall be liable for a civil penalty of not more than five-hundred dollars ($500) for each day a violation occurs.


Additional Commentary

In the United States, more than 99% of farmed animals are raised on "factory farms" or highly concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that consist of tens or hundreds of thousands of animals in confined spaces. These facilities aim to maintain the highest level of production, which comes at the cost of the welfare of the animals because the facilities do not provide the animals with adequate space, with adequate ventilation or the ability to engage in natural and instinctual behaviors. In addition, many CAFOs inevitably contain unsanitary conditions that harbor and even promote disease, causing a high degree of mortality among the animal populations. Individual animals rarely receive direct veterinary care. To maximize their profit, livestock producers routinely administer antibiotics to livestock for nontherapeutic purposes in order to prevent diseases, and even to promote growth in the animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that medically-important antibiotics sold and distributed for use in livestock increased by 26% from 2009 to 2015 and that in 2015, 62% of antibiotic drugs sold and distributed for use in livestock were medically-important drugs.


Numerous scientific studies around the world have demonstrated that the overuse of antibiotics in animals has contributed to antibiotic-resistant infections in humans. The overuse of antibiotics in livestock allows antibiotic-resistant bacteria to outlive bacteria that respond to antibiotics. These resistant bacteria are then passed on to humans through the food supply, either through the consumption of animal products that contain the bacteria or the consumption of crops which were grown with water or fertilizer that was contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria from animal feces. Once resistant bacteria have affected a portion of the human population, these infections will continue to spread when humans come in contact with each other. This process could render infections and medical procedures that are commonly treated with antibiotics untreatable in the future. In order to prevent the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant infections, antibiotics must be used responsibly in both humans and animals because any overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance in the general population.


In 2015, California became the first state to pass a law that bans the routine use of antibiotics in healthy livestock. In May 2017, Maryland became the second state to enact a similar law.



2015 FDA Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals


California Statute: Cal Food & Agr Code § 14400 - 14402


Center for Disease Control and Prevention


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