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Compensation for Veterinarian Services

It is to be noted that in some instances, statutes that require veterinarians to secure licenses before engaging in practice specifically provide that an unlicensed practitioner will not recover compensation for his/her services.  Similarly, if a person practices without strictly following such conditions which are required to be performed as a veterinarian, s/he cannot recover for his/her services although s/he possesses high qualifications and acts in perfect good faith[i].

In Rader v. Elliott, 181 Iowa 156 (Iowa 1917), the plaintiff brought an action to recover for services rendered in vaccinating the defendant’s hogs with hog cholera serum.  He publicly advertised himself as a veterinarian and treated the hogs as a veterinarian. He possessed no certificate from the state that authorizes him to practice veterinary medicine.  However, he had taken a special course of instruction and was granted a permit required by law.  The court observed that it cannot separate the criminal acts from the lawful acts and hence ruled against the plaintiff.

Whereas, in Pecheos v. Johnson, 106 Wash. 163 (Wash. 1919), the owners hired an individual to administer the vaccinations to the hogs.  The owners lost 27 of their hogs and they filed an action against the individual.  The court observed that the serum used by the individual was of standard quality.  The individual was not a veterinarian.  The court concluded that the evidence conclusively showed that the individual treated the animals gratuitously and held in favor of the individual.

Therefore, if a statute requires veterinary surgeons to be licensed, but also provides that such provisions relating to veterinarians do not apply to persons who gratuitously treat animals, then such a statute will not prevent the recovery of the price of vaccines administered by a person who is not a licensed veterinarian.

In Smith v. Quayle, 258 A.D. 769 (N.Y. App. Div. 1939), the plaintiff was a doctor of veterinary medicine and sued to recover for services rendered in the care of some pedigreed Airdale terriers owned by the defendant.  The defendant counterclaimed alleging that the services were improperly rendered.  The defendant also alleged that the plaintiff mistreated the dogs.  The evidence showed that shortly after the rendition of the services the defendant mailed to the plaintiff a check for the amount of plaintiff’s bill bearing the statement “mistreatment of dogs in full to-date”.

The plaintiff retained the check but never cashed it.  According to the defendant, this check was both payment in full and also a legal tender.  The trial court asked the jury to find separately on the claims of the respective parties and it must find a verdict in favor of the plaintiff for some amount because it was undisputed that some services were properly rendered.

Therefore, in the above case, it was observed by the court that even if the mistreatment of animals on the part of a veterinarian is a partial defense against his/her action to recover for services rendered in the care of the animals, s/he is still entitled to a partial recovery if some services are properly rendered by such a person.

[i] Rader v. Elliott, 181 Iowa 156 (Iowa 1917)

Inside Compensation for Veterinarian Services