Change in Regulations Causes Many California Vets and Clients to Break the Law Unknowingly
Several canine and feline medical conditions require home treatments that incorporate needles or syringes. For instance, cats with kidney disease may receive regular injections of fluids under their skin. Cats and dogs with diabetes often require daily (or twice daily) injections of insulin.
Needles and syringes can be safely used only once. This means that many pet owners must store and dispose of used needles that are generated by their pet's treatment.
Historically two disposal methods have been commonly used. Many people would simply throw the used needles away. This technique was legal but frowned upon because sharp medical waste is inherently dangerous. In the second method, people saved their pet's used needles and returned them to their veterinarian for disposal.
What very few people, including veterinarians, realize is that both of the commonly used methods are now illegal in California. On September 1, 2008 new regulations took effect to protect public safety by barring the disposal of needles in trash cans or recycling bins.
The only legal way to dispose of needles and syringes that are used at home is to take them to an official "home-generated sharps consolidation point". Such points must comply with specific state regulations. A special application is required to register as a consolidation point.
This means that unless your veterinarian has taken special measures to register his or her facility as a home-generated sharps consolidation point (and I'll bet your vet has not), you cannot legally return used needles or syringes to your vet's office.
The new regulations also address the storage of used needles until they can be taken to the consolidation point. In the past, people often used plastic bags or tupperware containers to store their sharps. Now people must use specially designed and approved sharps receptacles.
For more information on the regulations, click here.
Photo credit: William Rafti. Photo license: CC