Non-Surgical Embryo Transfer (legal opinion)
The following opinion outlines the parameters under which embryo transfer can be performed in California. Although embryo transfer is a segmented process, as a whole it constitutes the practice of veterinary medicine and cannot be performed without supervision of a California licensed veterinarian.
Section 4826 of the Business and Professions code provides that a person practices veterinary medicine when he or she does any of the following:
Assuming that embryo transfers are performed for purposes of breeding (e.g. to develop or improve a particular type of cow) rather than as a therapeutic means of attempting to alter a diseased or abnormal physical state (e.g. sterility), it would not fall within the provisions of subdivision (c) of section 4826. Thus, the manual procedure of withdrawal and insertion of the ova, for the purposes of breeding, is not for the purpose of preventing, curing or relieving a wound fracture or bodily injury or disease, but instead directed at a condition (i.e. to induce pregnancy in a healthy animal) and thus would not constitute the practice of veterinary medicine.
However, the manual determination of whether (1) a cow is fertile for purposes of determining its potential to act as a donor, or (2) a cow is "available (i.e. not pregnant) for purposes of being a recipient, and (3) the embryo transfer was successful (i.e. the recipient cow is pregnant) would constitute a manual procedure for the diagnosis of pregnancy, sterility or infertility within the provisions of section 4826 (e) and must be performed by a licensed veterinarian.
In regard to the administration of the epidural anesthesia, only a licensed veterinarian or registered veterinary technician is authorized to induce anesthesia and accordingly, an unlicensed person could not perform this procedure.
However, procedures such as the manual determination of pregnancy, sterility or infertility and anesthesia administration constitute the practice of veterinary medicine, and may only be performed by licensed veterinarians.
Since there are procedures involved with bovine embryo transfer that constitute the practice of veterinary medicine, an unlicensed person would be prohibited from conducting an embryo transfer independent of a licensed veterinarian.
Any questions regarding this policy should be directed to the Board's Legislation and Regulations Unit at (916) 263-2610.