Florida Laws on Regulation and Licensing of Veterinarians


In Florida, laws on regulation and licensing of veterinarians can be found in Chapter 474, Title 32 of Florida statutes. 

Board of Veterinary Medicine

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 474.204, Board of Veterinary medicine is created within the department the Board of Veterinary Medicine consisting of seven members appointed by the Governor, subject to confirmation by the Senate.  Five members of the board are licensed veterinarians. Two members of the board must be laypersons. 

Licensing of Veterinarians

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 474.207, any person desiring to be licensed as a veterinarian must apply to the department to take a licensure examination. The department must license each applicant who the board certifies has:

a) Completed the application form and remitted an examination fee set by the board.
b) 1. Graduated from a college of veterinary medicine accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education; or
      2. Graduated from a college of veterinary medicine listed in the American Veterinary Medical Association Roster of Veterinary Colleges of the World and obtained a certificate from the Education Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates.

c) Successfully completed the examination provided by the department, or an examination determined by the board to be equivalent.
d) Demonstrated knowledge of the laws and rules governing the practice of veterinary medicine in Florida in a manner designated by rules of the board.

Fla. Stat. § 474.207 provides that the department must not issue a license to any applicant who is under investigation in any state or territory of the United States or in the District of Columbia for an act which would constitute a violation of this chapter until the investigation is complete and disciplinary proceedings have been terminated.   

An applicant is deemed to have met the education requirements for licensure upon submission of evidence that the applicant meets one of the following:

a) The applicant was certified for examination by the board prior to October 1, 1989; or
b) The applicant immigrated to the United States after leaving her or his home country because of political reasons, provided such country is located in the Western Hemisphere and lacks diplomatic relations with the United States; and

      1. Was a Florida resident immediately preceding her or his application for licensure;
      2. Demonstrates to the board, through submission of documentation verified by the applicant’s respective professional association in exile, that s/he received a professional degree in veterinary medicine from a college or university located in the country from which s/he emigrated; and
      3. Lawfully practiced her or his profession for at least 3 years.

An unlicensed doctor of veterinary medicine who has graduated from an approved college or school of veterinary medicine and has completed all parts of the examination for licensure is permitted, while awaiting the results of such examination for licensure or while awaiting issuance of the license, to practice under the immediate supervision of a licensed veterinarian.  A person who fails any part of the examination may not continue to practice, except in the same capacity as other nonlicensed veterinary employees, until s/he passes the examination and is eligible for licensure[i].

Exemptions

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 474.203, this chapter does not apply to:

1) Any faculty member practicing only in conjunction with teaching duties at a school or college of veterinary medicine located in this state and accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education.  However, this exemption shall only apply to such a faculty member who does not hold a valid license issued under this chapter, but who is a graduate of a school or college of veterinary medicine accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education or a school or college recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates.  The faculty member exemption automatically expires when such school or college terminates the faculty member from such teaching duties. On December 31 of each year, such school or college must provide the board with a written list of all faculty who are exempt. 
2) A person practicing as an intern or resident veterinarian who does not hold a valid license and who is a graduate in training at a school or college of veterinary medicine located in Florida and accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education or a school or college recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates. Such intern or resident must be a graduate of a school or college of veterinary medicine accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education. This exemption expires when such intern or resident completes or is terminated from such training.
3) A student in a school or college of veterinary medicine while in the performance of duties assigned by her or his instructor or when working as a preceptor under the immediate supervision of a licensee, provided that such preceptorship is required for graduation from an accredited school or college of veterinary medicine. The licensed veterinarian is responsible for all acts performed by a preceptor under her or his supervision.
4) Any doctor of veterinary medicine in the employ of a state agency or the United States Government while actually engaged in the performance of her or his official duties.

5) (a) Any person, or the person’s regular employee, administering to the ills or injuries of her or his own animals, including, but not limited to, castration, spaying, and dehorning of herd animals, unless title has been transferred or employment provided for the purpose of circumventing this law.
   (b) A person hired on a part-time or temporary basis, or as an independent contractor, by an owner to assist with herd management and animal husbandry tasks for herd and flock animals, including castration, dehorning, parasite control, and debeaking, or a person hired on a part-time or temporary basis, or as an independent contractor, by an owner to provide farriery and manual hand floating of teeth on equines.

6) State agencies, accredited schools, institutions, foundations, business corporations or associations, physicians licensed to practice medicine and surgery in all its branches, graduate doctors of veterinary medicine, or persons under the direct supervision thereof, which or who conduct experiments and scientific research on animals in the development of pharmaceuticals, biologicals, serums, or methods of treatment, or techniques for the diagnosis or treatment of human ailments, or when engaged in the study and development of methods and techniques directly or indirectly applicable to the problems of the practice of veterinary medicine.
7) Any veterinary aide, nurse, laboratory technician, preceptor, or other employee of a licensed veterinarian who administers medication or who renders auxiliary or supporting assistance under the responsible supervision of a licensed veterinarian, including those tasks identified by rule of the board requiring immediate supervision. However, the licensed veterinarian is responsible for all such acts performed under this subsection by persons under her or his supervision.
8. A veterinarian, licensed by and actively practicing veterinary medicine in another state, who is board certified in a specialty recognized by the board and who responds to a request of a veterinarian licensed in this state to assist with the treatment on a specific case of a specific animal or with the treatment on a specific case of the animals of a single owner, as long as the veterinarian licensed in this state requests the other veterinarian’s presence[ii].

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 474.211, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation must renew a license upon receipt of the renewal application and fee and an affidavit of compliance with continuing education requirements set by rule of the board.  The department must adopt rules establishing a procedure for the biennial renewal of licenses.  The board may by rule prescribe continuing education, not to exceed 30 hours biennially, as a condition for renewal of a license or certificate.

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 474.2125, the board must adopt rules providing for the issuance of a temporary license to a licensed veterinarian of another state for the purpose of enabling her or him to provide veterinary medical services in Florida for the animals of a specific owner or, as may be needed in an emergency, for the animals of multiple owners, provided the applicant would qualify for licensure by endorsement.  Temporary license is not valid for more than 30 days after its issuance, and no license must cover more than the treatment of the animals of one owner except in an emergency.  After the expiration of 30 days, a new license is required.

Prohibitions and Penalties

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 474.213, a person must not:

a) Lead the public to believe that such person is licensed as a veterinarian, or is engaged in the licensed practice of veterinary medicine, without such person holding a valid, active license;
b) Use the name or title “veterinarian” when the person has not been licensed;
c) Present as her or his own the license of another;
d) Give false or forged evidence to the board or a member thereof for the purpose of obtaining a license;
e) Use or attempt to use a veterinarian’s license which has been suspended or revoked;
f) Knowingly employ unlicensed persons in the practice of veterinary medicine;
g) Knowingly conceal information relative to violations of this chapter;
h) Obtain or attempt to obtain a license to practice veterinary medicine by fraudulent representation;
i) Practice veterinary medicine in Florida, unless the person holds a valid, active license to practice veterinary medicine pursuant to this chapter;
j) Sell or offer to sell a diploma conferring a degree from a veterinary school or college, or a license issued pursuant to this chapter, or procure such diploma or license with the intent that it must be used as evidence of that which the document stands for by a person other than the one upon whom it was conferred or to whom it was granted; or
k) Knowingly operate a veterinary establishment or premises without having a premise permit issued under s. 474.215.

A person who violates any provision of this section commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084[iii].

Disciplinary proceedings

The following acts constitute grounds for which the disciplinary actions are taken:

a) Attempting to procure a license to practice veterinary medicine by bribery, by fraudulent representations, or through an error of the department or the board.
b) Having a license or the authority to practice veterinary medicine revoked, suspended, or otherwise acted against, including the denial of licensure, by the licensing authority of any jurisdiction, including any agency or subdivision thereof. The licensing authority’s acceptance of a veterinarian’s relinquishment of a license, stipulation, consent order, or other settlement, offered in response to or in anticipation of the filing of administrative charges against the veterinarian’s license or authority to practice, is construed as action against the veterinarian’s license or authority to practice.
c) Being convicted or found guilty, regardless of adjudication, of a crime in any jurisdiction which directly relates to the practice of veterinary medicine or the ability to practice veterinary medicine.  Any crime which demonstrates a lack of regard for animal life relates to the ability to practice veterinary medicine.  In addition, crimes relating to the ability to practice veterinary medicine includes, but not be limited to, crimes involving any violation of state or federal drug laws.
d) Making or filing a report or record which the licensee knows to be false, intentionally or negligently failing to file a report or record required by state or federal law, willfully impeding or obstructing such filing, or inducing another person to impede or obstruct such filing.  Such reports or records include only those which are signed in the capacity of a licensed veterinarian.
e) Advertising goods or services in a manner which is fraudulent, false, deceptive, or misleading in form or content.
f) Violating any provision of this chapter or chapter 455, a rule of the board or department, or a lawful order of the board or department previously entered in a disciplinary hearing, or failing to comply with a lawfully issued subpoena of the department.
g) Practicing with a revoked, suspended, inactive, or delinquent license.
h) Being unable to practice veterinary medicine with reasonable skill or safety to patients by reason of illness, drunkenness, use of drugs, narcotics, chemicals, or any other material or substance or as a result of any mental or physical condition.  In enforcing this paragraph, upon a finding by the secretary, the secretary’s designee, or the probable cause panel of the board that probable cause exists to believe that the licensee is unable to practice the profession because of the reasons stated in this paragraph, the department shall have the authority to compel a licensee to submit to a mental or physical examination by a physician designated by the department.  If the licensee refuses to comply with the department’s order, the department may file a petition for enforcement in the circuit court of the circuit in which the licensee resides or does business.  The licensee must not be named or identified by initials in any other public court records or documents and the enforcement proceedings shall be closed to the public.  The department is entitled to the summary procedure provided in s. 51.011.
i) Judicially determined mental incompetency.  However, a license suspended for this cause may be reinstated upon legal restoration of the competency of the individual whose license was so suspended.
j) Knowingly maintaining a professional connection or association with any person who is in violation of the provisions of this chapter or the rules of the board or department.  However, if the licensee verifies that the person is actively participating in a board-approved program for the treatment of a physical or mental condition, the licensee is required only to report such person to the consultant.
k) Paying or receiving kickbacks, rebates, bonuses, or other remuneration for receiving a patient or client or for referring a patient or client to another provider of veterinary services or goods.
l) Performing or prescribing unnecessary or unauthorized treatment.
m) Fraud in the collection of fees from consumers or any person, agency, or organization paying fees to practitioners.
n) Attempting to restrict competition in the field of veterinary medicine other than for the protection of the public.
o) Fraud, deceit, negligence, incompetency, or misconduct, in or related to the practice of veterinary medicine.
p) Conviction on a charge of cruelty to animals.
q) Permitting or allowing another to use a veterinarian’s license for the purpose of treating or offering to treat animals.
r) Being guilty of incompetence or negligence by failing to practice medicine with that level of care, skill, and treatment which is recognized by a reasonably prudent veterinarian as being acceptable under similar conditions and circumstances.
s) Willfully making any misrepresentations in connection with the inspection of food for human consumption.
t) Fraudulently issuing or using any false health certificate, vaccination certificate, test chart, or other blank form used in the practice of veterinary medicine relating to the presence or absence of animal disease or transporting animals or issuing any false certificate relating to the sale of products of animal origin for human consumption.
u) Fraud or dishonesty in applying, treating, or reporting on tuberculin, diagnostic, or other biological tests.
v) Failing to keep the equipment and premises of the business establishment in a clean and sanitary condition, having a premises permit suspended or revoked, or operating or managing premises that do not comply with requirements established by rule of the board.
w) Practicing veterinary medicine at a location for which a valid premises permit has not been issued when required under s. 474.215.
x) Refusing to permit the department to inspect the business premises of the licensee during regular business hours.
y) Using the privilege of ordering, prescribing, or making available medicinal drugs or drugs, or controlled substances, for use other than for the specific treatment of animal patients for which there is a documented veterinarian/client/patient relationship.  Pursuant thereto, the veterinarian must:

      1. Have sufficient knowledge of the animal to initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis of the medical condition of the animal, which means that the veterinarian is personally acquainted with the keeping and caring of the animal and has recently seen the animal or has made medically appropriate and timely visits to the premises where the animal is kept.
      2. Be available or provide for followup care and treatment in case of adverse reactions or failure of the regimen of therapy.
      3. Maintain records which document patient visits, diagnosis, treatment, and other relevant information required under this chapter.

z) Providing, prescribing, ordering, or making available for human use medicinal drugs or drugs, controlled substances, or any material, chemical, or substance used exclusively for animal treatment.
aa) Failing to report to the department any person the licensee knows to be in violation of this chapter or of the rules of the department or board.  However, if the licensee verifies that the person is actively participating in a board-approved program for the treatment of a physical or mental condition, the licensee is required only to report such person to the consultant.
bb) Violating any of the requirements of chapter 499, the Florida Drug and Cosmetic Act; 21 U.S.C. ss. 301-392, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; 21 U.S.C. ss. 821 et seq., the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, more commonly known as the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act; or chapter 893.
cc) Failing to provide adequate radiation safeguards.
dd) Failing to perform any statutory or legal obligation placed upon a licensee.
ee) Failing to keep contemporaneously written medical records as required by rule of the board.
ff) Prescribing or dispensing a legend drug, including any controlled substance, inappropriately or in excessive or inappropriate quantities.
gg) Practicing or offering to practice beyond the scope permitted by law.
hh) Delegating professional responsibilities to a person when the licensee delegating such responsibilities knows or has reason to know that such person is not qualified by training, experience, or licensure to perform them.
ii) Presigning blank prescription forms.
jj) Failing to report to the board within 30 days, in writing, any action set forth in paragraph (b) that has been taken against the practitioner’s license to practice veterinary medicine by any jurisdiction, including any agency or subdivision thereof.
kk) Aiding or assisting another person in violating any provision of this chapter or any rule adopted pursuant thereto.
ll) Failing to respond within 60 days after receipt of a request to provide satisfactory proof of having participated in approved continuing education programs.
mm) Failing to maintain accurate records or reports as required by this chapter or by federal or state laws or rules pertaining to the storing, labeling, selling, dispensing, prescribing, and administering of controlled substances.
nn) Failing to report a change of address to the board within 60 days thereof.
oo) Failure of the responsible veterinarian to report a change of premises ownership or responsible veterinarian within 60 days thereof.
pp) Failing to give the owner of a patient, before dispensing any drug, a written prescription when requested.

Fla. Stat. § 474.214 provides that when the board finds any applicant or veterinarian guilty of any of the above grounds, regardless of whether the violation occurred prior to licensure, it may enter an order imposing one or more of the following penalties:

a) Denial of certification for examination or licensure.
b) Revocation or suspension of a license.
c) Imposition of an administrative fine not to exceed $ 5,000 for each count or separate offense.
d) Issuance of a reprimand.
e) Placement of the veterinarian on probation for a period of time and subject to such conditions as the board may specify, including requiring the veterinarian to attend continuing education courses or to work under the supervision of another veterinarian.
f) Restricting the authorized scope of practice.
g) Imposition of costs of the investigation and prosecution.
h) Requiring the veterinarian to undergo remedial education.

The department mustl reissue the license of a disciplined veterinarian upon certification by the board that the disciplined veterinarian has complied with all of the terms and conditions set forth in the final order and is capable of competently and safely engaging in the practice of veterinary medicine[iv].

Premises permits

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 474.215, any establishment, permanent or mobile, where a licensed veterinarian practices must have a premises permit issued by the department.  Upon application and payment of a fee not to exceed $ 250, as set by rule of the board, the department shall cause such establishment to be inspected.  A premises permit is issued if the establishment meets minimum standards, to be adopted by rule of the board, as to sanitary conditions, recordkeeping, equipment, radiation monitoring, services required, and physical plant.

The premises permit may be revoked, suspended, or denied when inspection reveals that the establishment does not meet the standards set by rule or when the license of the responsible veterinarian has been suspended or revoked.

Fla. Stat. § 474.215 provides that any practitioner who provides veterinary service on a house-call basis and who does not maintain a veterinary establishment for receipt of patients is not required to obtain a premises permit, but must provide for minimum equipment and facilities as established by rule.

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 474.215, the department may issue a temporary premises permit to a responsible veterinarian who has submitted the application fee and a completed application form affirming compliance with the standards set by rule of the board.  If the department inspects the establishment and discovers that it is not in compliance with the department’s standards, the department shall notify the veterinarian in writing of the deficiencies and must provide 30 days for correction of the deficiencies and reinspection.  Such temporary permit shall become void upon notification by the department that the establishment has failed, after reinspection, to meet those standards.  Upon receipt of such notice, the responsible veterinarian must close the establishment until completion of a subsequent inspection affirming that the required standards have been met and until another permit has been issued by the department.

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 474.215, the department or the board may deny, revoke, or suspend the permit of any permittee under this section and may fine, place on probation, or otherwise discipline any such permittee who has:

      1. Obtained a permit by misrepresentation or fraud or through an error of the department or board;
      2. Attempted to procure, or has procured, a permit for any other person by making, or causing to be made, any false representation;
      3. Violated any of the requirements of this chapter or any rule of the board; or
      4. Been convicted or found guilty of, or entered a plea of nolo contendere to, regardless of adjudication, a felony in any court of Florids, of any other state, or of the United States.

If the permit is revoked or suspended, the owner, manager, or proprietor must cease to operate the premises as a veterinary medical practice as of the effective date of the suspension or revocation.  If the permit is revoked, the person owning or operating the establishment may not apply for a permit to operate a premises for a period of 1 year after the effective date of such revocation.

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 474.216, each person to whom a license or premises permit is issued must keep such document conspicuously displayed in her or his office, place of business, or place of employment, whether a permanent or mobile veterinary establishment or clinic, and must, whenever required, exhibit said document to any member or authorized representative of the board.

License by Endorsement

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 474.217, the department must issue a license by endorsement to any applicant who, upon applying to the department and remitting a fee set by the board, demonstrates to the board that s/he:

   (a) Has demonstrated, in a manner designated by rule of the board, knowledge of the laws and rules governing the practice of veterinary medicine in Florida; and

   (b) 1. Either holds, and has held for the 3 years immediately preceding the application for licensure, a valid, active license to practice veterinary medicine in another state of the United States, the District of Columbia, or a territory of the United States, provided that the requirements for licensure in the issuing state, district, or territory are equivalent to or more stringent than the requirements of this chapter; or
          2. Meets the qualifications of s. 474.207(2)(b) and has successfully completed a state, regional, national, or other examination which is equivalent to or more stringent than the examination given by the department and has passed the board’s clinical competency examination or another clinical competency examination specified by rule of the board[v].

[i] Fla. Stat. § 474.207.

[ii] Fla. Stat. § 474.203.

[iii] Fla. Stat. § 474.213.

[iv] Fla. Stat. § 474.214.

[v] Fla. Stat. § 474.217.