In Alabama, laws relating to veterinarians can be found in the Alabama Veterinary Practice Act. Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-63, the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners consists of eight members. Each of the eight members of the board is appointed by the Governor from a list of three persons nominated and submitted to him or her by the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association at least 30 days prior to appointment. The term of each member of the board is four years unless removed or until a successor is appointed and qualified. Each member of the board must be a citizen of Alabama.
Powers of the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-66, the board elects from its members a president and vice-president, each of whom will serve a term of one year. The board shall do all of the following:
- Adopt rules and regulations to be compiled as an administrative code.
- Name a definite time and place for meetings.
- Have at least two business meetings each year called by the president, which shall be in addition to meetings for the conduct of examinations.
- Give notice in writing at least 10 days prior to the date on which the two annual business meetings are held to Alabama licensed veterinarians.
- Have a majority of sitting members of the board as a quorum.
- Hold meetings and administrative hearings open to the public except where closed to prepare, approve, administer, or grade examinations or to deliberate the qualifications of an applicant for licensing or the disposition of a proceeding to discipline a licensed veterinarian or any other person licensed under this article.
- Hold special meetings called by the president or vice-president of the board and meet anywhere in Alabama.
- Keep complete and accurate records of all meetings and these records, except the records of closed meetings as provided in subdivision (6), shall be open to the public.Keep complete and accurate records of all meetings and these records, except the records of closed meetings as provided in subdivision (6), shall be open to the public[i].
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-69, the board is a body corporate and has the power to do all of the following:
- Examine and determine the qualifications and fitness of applicants for a license to practice veterinary medicine in the state.
- Issue, renew, deny, suspend, and revoke licenses, issue private reprimands and private informed admonitions to practitioners who practice veterinary medicine in this state, or otherwise discipline or censure veterinary professionals, irrespective of their licensure status, whether active, inactive, expired, lapsed, surrendered, or disciplined, relative to acts, omissions, complaints, and investigations which occurred during the licensure period consistent with this article.
- Conduct investigations for the purpose of discovering violations of this article or grounds for disciplining licensed veterinary professionals or other non-licensed individuals pursuant to the administrative code of the board and appoint individuals and committees to assist in the investigations. Jurisdiction of the board shall extend to non-licensed individuals engaging in the unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine. It is the intent of this section that licensees may not divest the board of jurisdiction by changing or relinquishing licensure status. The board shall have the power to subpoena records.
- Have a common seal and act as a corporate body with the right to sue and be sued, hold hearings, subpoena witnesses, compel the production of any books, records, papers, or documents, and take testimony bearing on the records of applicants for licensing to practice veterinary medicine and surgery in Alabama and on the records of practitioners who may be under consideration by the board for charges of misconduct.
- Employ full-time or part-time personnel, including an executive director as previously provided, professional, clerical, or special personnel as necessary to effectuate this article and to purchase or rent necessary office space, equipment, and supplies.
- Appoint from its own membership one or more members to act as representatives of the board at any meeting in or out of the state when representation is deemed desirable. The delegate or delegates from the board shall attend the annual meeting of the American Association of Veterinary State Boards and his or her expenses shall be paid by the board. The board may authorize the attendance of the executive director, legal counsel, or other staff members of the board at any meeting described in this subdivision.
- Adopt, amend, or repeal all rules necessary for its governance and all regulations necessary to carry into effect the provisions of this article in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act, including, but not limited to, the establishment and publication of rules of professional conduct for the practice of veterinary medicine. These regulations shall be known as the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners Administrative Code. They shall be published and distributed to all licensed Alabama veterinarians and to all applicants for licensing. Any proposed changes to the administrative code shall be published in the official newsletter of the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association and mailed to all Alabama licensed veterinarians. A period of 10 days shall be allowed to post publication or notification so that any Alabama licensed veterinarian opposing the changes has time to request a hearing as hereafter provided.
- To fix minimum standards for continuing veterinary medical education which standards shall be a condition precedent to the renewal of a license under this article.
- To inspect any hospitals, clinics, satellites, outpatient clinics, mobile clinics, or other places utilized for the practice of veterinary medicine. An inspection shall be made by the board’s authorized representative(s). The inspection shall be for the purpose of reporting such inspection to the board on a form prescribed by the board or for seeking disciplinary action in cases of violation of this article or violation of other health and sanitation regulations duly established and published by the board or other duly constituted state authorities having jurisdiction in such matters.
- To provide special registration for veterinarian technicians, and if desired, veterinary interns, and veterinary student preceptees and to adopt regulations concerning the training, legislation, and service limits of those assistants while employed by and acting under the supervision and responsibilities of licensed veterinarians. The board shall have exclusive jurisdiction in determining eligibility and qualification requirements and in granting or refusing to grant or to suspend or revoke registration. Any suspension or revocation of a special registration issued under this section shall be conducted pursuant to the Code of Alabama 1975.
- Establish and publish annually a schedule of fees for the licensing or registration, or both, and for renewal of a license or registration for veterinarians and veterinary technicians pursuant to this article.
- Authorize any member of the board to sign complaints for the bringing of proceedings in courts for the enforcement of this article.
- To act as a corporate board or as an individual member of the board to prosecute in court on an action quo warranto, injunction, or any other proper suit to oust from practice unlawful practitioners and to assist the Attorney General or any other prosecutor for criminal violations of this article.
- For disciplinary purposes, to adopt, levy, and collect administrative fines for noncompliance by its licensees and other individuals engaging in the unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine of this chapter, or the administrative code of the board, of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250), nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) per violation, and to institute any legal proceedings necessary to effect compliance with this chapter.
- To promulgate and implement administrative rules and regulations in accordance with the State Administrative Procedure Act to provide for an inactive license status, an inactive license fee, and a reactivation process and reactivation fee.
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-70, all revenues received by the board shall be accepted by the executive director and deposited with the Treasurer of the state to be credited to an account to be known as the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners Fund. All expenses of the board shall be paid from the fund by vouchers signed by the executive director of the board and no part of the state’s General Fund shall be expended for this purpose. Funds shall be a continuing account and shall not be subject to diversion to the State General Fund except to the extent that the balance in the fund at the close of any fiscal year exceeds the budget of the board by 200 percent, in which case the excess shall be transferred to and become a part of the State General Fund.
Licensing of Veterinarians
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-71, the board may issue a temporary license to practice veterinary medicine to an unlicensed applicant providing the applicant meets all conditions and requirements of this article relating to qualifications of applicants for license to practice veterinary medicine. Any person applying for a temporary license shall associate himself or herself with a licensed doctor of veterinary medicine. His or her license shall be limited to the work of a licensed doctor of veterinary medicine and he or she shall not participate without direct supervision in the practice of or operation of a branch office, clinic, or allied establishment. An applicant may work under the indirect supervision in the primary clinic of his or her employer. The license, when granted, shall bear the name and address of the licensed doctor of veterinary medicine. There shall be a fee which shall not be refundable for the temporary license.
Renewal of temporary licenses may be granted by the board. No temporary license shall be issued to an applicant who has not passed either the AVMA approved National Veterinary Licensing Exam or the National Board Examination for Veterinarians, and the Clinical Competency Test for Veterinarians, or has failed any portion of the Alabama state board examination.
All temporary licenses shall expire 90 days from date of issue or on the day the applicant receives or is denied a license from the board, whichever date is earliest.
Acceptance of a temporary license by an applicant shall be deemed to be consent for expiration of that license in accordance with this article.
If employment ceases at the place of employment noted on the temporary license, then the board shall be notified or if there is more than one employer of that temporary license holder, the board shall be notified by the employer.
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-75, all licenses shall expire annually on December 31 of each year but may be renewed by application to the board showing fulfillment of continuing education requirements and payment of a renewal fee established and published by the board. The continuation of practice after the expiration of a license shall be in violation of this article and be cause for suspension of the license. The executive director shall send a reminder of expiration 30 days prior to expiration by first class mail and issue a new display license to all persons registering under this article. Failure to renew a license on or before January 1 of each year shall prompt the executive director to send a final notice of expiration by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the last address of the veterinarian known to the board and a late penalty shall be assessed and the license shall be suspended for non-renewal. A person may renew a license suspended for non-renewal at any time within two years, upon application, payment of the prescribed renewal fee and a late penalty fee per year for late renewals, provided the applicant is otherwise eligible for renewal. The board may renew a license without fulfillment of the continuing education requirement to any nonpracticing veterinarian over 70 years old or grant extensions or exemptions of continuing education requirements for veterinarians with extenuating medical or other circumstances.
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-76, no person shall practice veterinary medicine or veterinary technology unless the person holds an active license to practice veterinary medicine or veterinary technology in the State of Alabama and in addition:
- No person shall use the name or title of licensed veterinarian when the person has not been licensed pursuant to this article.
- No person shall use the name or title of a licensed veterinary technician when the person has not been licensed pursuant to this article.
- No person shall present as his or her own the license of another.
- No person shall give false or forged information to the board or a member thereof for the purpose of obtaining a license.
- No person shall use or attempt to use a veterinarian’s license which has been suspended or revoked.
- No person shall knowingly employ unlicensed persons in the practice of veterinary medicine.
- No person shall knowingly conceal information relative to violations of this article.
- No person shall falsely represent himself or herself as being in a supervisory status without providing such supervision.
- No person shall provide veterinary medical services to a client or patient in this state through telephonic, electronic, or other means, regardless of the location of the veterinarian, without a license to practice in this state and without establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
- No person convicted of fraud, deceit, gross negligence, incompetency, violation of the administrative code of the board, or any other misconduct in the practice of veterinary medicine shall be allowed to retain his or her license to practice veterinary medicine and surgery in Alabama.
- No person convicted of or pleading nolo contendere to a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude shall be allowed to retain his or her license to practice veterinary medicine and surgery in Alabama.
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-77, no person shall practice veterinary medicine or veterinary technology in the State of Alabama who is not a currently and validly licensed veterinarian or licensed veterinary technician or the holder of a temporary permit issued by the board. This article shall not be construed to prohibit any of the following:
- A student in a school or college of veterinary medicine from the performance of duties assigned by his or her instructor or from working as a veterinary student preceptee under direct or indirect supervision of a licensed veterinarian.
- A student in a school or college of veterinary technology accredited by the AVMA from the performance of duties assigned by his or her instructor or from working as a veterinary technician student under direct or indirect supervision of a licensed veterinarian or licensed veterinary technician.
- Any doctor of veterinary medicine in the employ of a state or federal agency while actually engaged in the performance of his or her official duties; however, this exemption shall not apply to a person when he or she is not engaged in carrying out his or her official duties or is not working at or for the installations for which his or her services were engaged.
- Any person or his or her regular employee, administering to the ills or injuries of his or her own animals, including but not limited to, castration and dehorning of cattle unless title is transferred or employment changed for the purpose of circumventing this article.
- 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 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 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.
- Qualified practitioners of veterinary medicine and surgery from without the State of Alabama consulting with licensed veterinarians in Alabama. No veterinarian of any other state shall actively and actually practice veterinary medicine in Alabama unless and until he or she shall obtain a license to practice veterinary medicine from the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners and shall comply with the other requirements contained in this article.
- A member of the faculty of a veterinary school performing his or her regular functions or a person giving board approved lectures, instructions, or demonstrations in connection with continuing education courses or seminars to licensed veterinarians, licensed veterinary technicians, veterinary students, or veterinary technician students.
- Persons from gratuitously giving aid, assistance, or relief in emergency cases if they do not represent themselves to be veterinarians or use any title or degree appertaining to the practice thereof.
- Fishery biologists actively employed by the State of Alabama, the United States government, or any person in the production or management of commercial food or game fish while in the performance of their official duties.
- A person from being or practicing as a “veterinary intern.”
Discipline of Veterinarians
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-78, the board or any citizen of this state may bring action in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County to enjoin any person from practicing veterinary medicine without a currently valid license or temporary permit. If the court finds that the person is violating or is threatening to violate this article, it shall enter an injunction restraining him or her from such unlawful acts. The successful maintenance of an action based on any one of the remedies set forth in this section shall in no way prejudice the prosecution of an action based on any other of the remedies.
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-79, when the board, by its official actions, acts or proposes to act in a manner which will affect the rights, duties, or privileges of the issuance of a license to an applicant or the license of a veterinarian, veterinary technician, or other individual, those persons shall have a right to an administrative hearing. When the board proposes to act in such manner, it shall give to the person or persons notice of their right to a hearing by certified mail to the person at his or her last known address, a notice of the proposed action, notice of a right to a hearing, and the time and place for a hearing, as provided in subsection (b). If the person or persons fail to appear at the time set for the hearing, the hearing may be conducted in absentia.
The board shall notify the applicant, licensed veterinarian, veterinary technician, or other individual of its decision in writing within a reasonable time after the conclusion of the hearing. The executive director or his or her designee, in all cases of suspension, revocation, or other discipline, shall enter the fact in the minutes of the board. Any person whose license is suspended or revoked shall be deemed an unlicensed person for purposes of this article and the probate court of that county or counties where the license should be filed shall be notified, the license pulled, and the fact published in the newsletter of the board. The board shall also cause a notice of revocation or suspension to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in each county of the State of Alabama in which the disciplined veterinarian maintains an office for the practice of veterinary medicine or veterinary technician is employed or the individual resides.
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-80, complaints submitted to the board or testimony with respect thereto shall be absolutely privileged and no lawsuit predicated thereon may be instituted. Members of the board and their staffs, and any member of a grievance committee authorized by the board to investigate a complaint filed pursuant to this article shall be immune from suit for any conduct in the course of their official duties.
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-82, any person who shall practice veterinary medicine without a current valid license shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be fined not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or imprisoned for not more than 90 days, or both, and each act of unlawful practice shall constitute a distinct and separate offense. The person, in the discretion of the judge, may be imprisoned or placed at hard labor for not more than six months.
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-83, a person disciplined pursuant to this article may appeal to the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, notwithstanding the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act. To do so, he or she shall file a petition in the circuit court within 30 days after notification of the decision of the board. The board has 15 days to enter an appearance and to file the record of the administrative proceedings. The court may affirm or set aside the decision of the board by judicial review. The license shall not be revoked pending appeal except in extraordinary circumstances as determined by the board, and approved by the circuit court in which the appeal is pending.
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-87, whenever the practice of veterinary medicine is carried on by a partnership, all partners shall be either licensed or holders of temporary licenses to practice veterinary medicine in the State of Alabama.
However, the following are exempted from this section:
- A veterinarian employed by a person treating his or her employer’s animals.
- A veterinarian employed by an official agency of the federal or state government or any subdivision thereof.
- A veterinarian employed by any licensed research facility.
- An heir or heirs inheriting under the terms of a will or by intestate succession for a period of two years following the death of the licensee.
Requisition of premise permits
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-88, any facility, including mobile clinics or any other premises where a licensed veterinarian practices shall have a premise permit issued by the board. Upon application and payment of a premise permit fee and an inspection fee, if necessary to cover the cost of inspection, the board shall cause a facility to be inspected. A premise permit shall be issued if the facility meets minimum standards to be adopted by the administrative code of the board as to sanitary conditions and physical plant. In lieu of the above procedure, the board may issue a premise permit to any premise which is accredited by a recognized organization whose standards meet or exceed minimum board standards as established by the administrative code of the board.
Code of Ala. § 34-29-88 provides that the board may cause the closure of a facility and impose a penalty against any owner, operator, or responsible veterinarian of any premises operating without a premise permit in violation of this section or in violation of the administrative code of the board. No penalties so imposed shall exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each count or separate offense. In order that the board and the executive director may determine whether or not a danger to the public or to animals exists, the executive director or investigators employed by the board may conduct inspections or investigations of premises suspected of being in violation of any rule of the board. If a violation is found in conducting an inspection which is determined to be a hazard and a danger to the public or to animals, the executive director may suspend that premise permit until further notice.
Premise permits issued to satellite, outpatient, or mobile small animal clinics shall state the name of the full service veterinary facility in that locale providing emergency and after hours service. Premise permits issued to mobile large animal clinics shall state the name of the full service veterinary facility in that locale providing radiology, emergency, and after hours service. Mobile clinics operating in more than one locale, i.e. city, shall have a premise permit for each locale. If the agreement between the outpatient, satellite, mobile large animal clinic, mobile small animal clinic, and the full service veterinary clinic providing back-up service ceases, the board shall be notified immediately and a new agreement for back-up service shall be provided before the issuance of a new premise permit.
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-89, each person to whom a license or premise permit, or both, is issued shall keep such license or premise permit, or both, conspicuously displayed in his or her office, place of business, or place of employment and shall, whenever required, exhibit the license or premise permit, or both, to any member or authorized representative of the board.
Volunteer services of Veterinarians
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-90, any licensed veterinarian who in good faith as a volunteer and without fee renders emergency care or treatment to a domestic animal shall not be liable in a suit for damages as a result of his or her acts or omissions which may occur during emergency care or treatment, nor shall he or she be liable to any animal hospital for its expense if under emergency conditions he or she orders an animal hospitalized or causes his or her admission to a hospital. Likewise, any licensed veterinarian who in good faith renders or attempts to render emergency care at the scene of an accident or emergency to the human victim or victims thereof shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omissions by persons rendering or attempting to render the emergency care.
Euthanasia of Animals
Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 34-29-131, euthanasia must be performed only by a licensed veterinarian or an employee or agent of a facility approved by the board that is operated for the collection and care of stray, neglected, abandoned, or unwanted animals, provided the employee or agent has successfully completed a euthanasia technician certification course.
[i] Code of Ala. § 34-29-66.
[ii] Code of Ala. § 34-29-71.
[iii] Code of Ala. § 34-29-75.
[iv] Code of Ala. § 34-29-79.
[v] Code of Ala. § 34-29-81.
[vi] Code of Ala. § 34-29-87.
[vii] Code of Ala. § 34-29-88.