Fifth Circuit Rules Against Online Vet

Requiring a physical examination as a prerequisite for providing veterinary advice does not violate the Constitutional rights of a Texas veterinarian who provided such advice online, according to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Dr. Ronald S. Hines derived a modest income from a website that included general animal health information along with occasional veterinary advice to specific pet owners about their pets.

The Texas Board of Veterinary Examiners informed Hines in 2012 that providing individualized veterinary advice without a physical examination of an animal violated state law. Hines agreed to abide by the requirements of the state veterinary practice act and accepted a year of probation, a stay of his license suspension, and a $500 fine. He also agreed to retake the jurisprudence portion of the state licensing examination.

Hines subsequently filed a lawsuit in federal district court, claiming that his free speech, equal protection and due process rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were being violated. The district court dismissed the equal protection and due process claims and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found no violation of Hines’ free speech rights. Hines may appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court, but there is no guarantee that the Court would accept the case for review.

The decision is Hines v. Alldredge, No. 14-40403 (5th Cir. March 27, 2015).

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