UPDATE 12/12/13 @ 5:00 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The war on prescription drug abuse is now hitting somewhere you'd least expect: the local vets office.
A spokesperson with the Ohio Attorney Generals office says they have heard from police and community members about the possible abuse of pet medications. In fact, they tell WSAZ.com they have even heard stories of people who may be willing to hurt their animals just to get their hands on prescription medication.
Jack Advent is the Executive Director of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association. He says his organization hasn't heard of any specific incidents of people injuring their pets to get bills. However, he says his organization will still warn its members about the issue.
"We're glad to cooperate," Advent said. "We're going to do whatever we can to make sure it doesn't happen. It's obviously very unfortunate when you hear about some individuals and the lengths they will go to for that addiction. It's a very sad thing, and obviously, very sad for everyone involved and certainly for any animals that they would try to injure for that purpose."
Advent says drug abusers may not realize vets are highly trained to spot animal abuse.
"If they would injure them in some way, the first thing is a lot of veterinarians are going to be able to recognize it as abuse," Advent said. "It's not going to go any farther than that. In fact, that individual may be referred to law enforcement."
Many pet prescriptions are the same as human pain medication. However, Advent says a lot of the time, it's much lower dosages due to the size of the animals.
"That's an important part of this whole equation," Advent said. "There might be some of those drugs, but it's going to be a much smaller dosage."
The Ohio Attorney Generals Office says the abuse of pet medication isn't a huge issue just yet, but they say they're trying to get ahead of it. Wednesday, the Ohio House approved HB 274 with a vote of 90-1. It would toughen penalties for cruelty to "companion animals" such as dogs and cats, and would also provide education materials for vets to identify abuse. HB 274 now goes to the Ohio Senate where similar legislation has failed in the past.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is working with the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association and state licensing boards to educate veterinarians about the possibility.
The Associated Press reports that DeWine's office has heard from police officers and community leaders about possible abuse of drugs prescribed by veterinarians for pets and who may even be hurting their animals to get the meds.
Lawmakers took on the issue Wednesday with language inserted in a bill toughening penalties for animal cruelty.
Jack Advent of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association said veterinarians haven't seen evidence of the problem, but they'll work with the state on prevention efforts.