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Colorado Laws on Regulation and Licensing of Veterinarians

Colorado laws on regulation and licensing of veterinarians can be found in Article 64, Title 12 of Colorado revised statutes.  Pursuant to C.R.S. 12-64-104, no person may practice veterinary medicine in this state if the person is not a licensed veterinarian. No person may practice artificial insemination or ova transplantation of cattle or other animal species in this state except in accordance with section 12-64-105 (9) (c). This article does not prohibit:

a) An employee of the federal, state, or local government from performing his or her official duties;
b) A person who is a regular student in an approved school of veterinary medicine from performing duties or actions assigned by his or her instructors or working under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian;
c) A person from advising with respect to, or performing acts which are, accepted livestock management practices;
d) A veterinarian regularly licensed in another state from consulting with a licensed veterinarian in this state;
e) Any merchant or manufacturer from selling, at his or her regular place of business, medicines, feed, appliances, or other products used in the prevention or treatment of animal diseases;
f) The owner of an animal and the owner’s employees from caring for and treating the animal belonging to such owner, except where the ownership of the animal was transferred for purposes of circumventing this article or where the primary reason for hiring such employee is to circumvent this article.  A veterinarian-client-patient relationship must exist when prescription drugs are administered, distributed, dispensed, or prescribed.
g) A person from lecturing or giving instructions or demonstrations at a school of veterinary medicine or in connection with a continuing education course or seminar for veterinarians;
h) Any person from selling or applying any pesticide, insecticide, or herbicide;
i) Any person from engaging in bona fide scientific research which reasonably requires experimentation involving animals or commercial production of biologics or animal medicines;
j) Any person from performing duties other than diagnosis, prescription, surgery, or initiating treatment under the direction and supervision of a licensed veterinarian who shall be responsible for such person’s performance;
k) A veterinary student or veterinary student preceptor from performing those acts permitted by this article;
l) Any person otherwise appropriately licensed or approved by the state from performing the functions described in section 12-64-103 (10) (d);
m) Any person licensed by the board from performing artificial insemination;
n) (I) Any person from performing massage on an animal if:
(A) The person does not prescribe drugs, perform surgery, or diagnose medical conditions; and
(B) The person has earned a degree or certificate in animal massage from a school approved by the private occupational school division of the Colorado department of higher education, an out-of-state school offering an animal massage program with an accreditation recognized by the United States department of education, or a school that is exempt under section 12-59-104.
o) The practice of animal chiropractic pursuant to section 12-33-127[i].

Board of veterinary medicine

The state board of veterinary medicine is appointed by the governor.  The board consists of seven members and each member is appointed for a term of four years.  No person shall serve more than two consecutive four-year terms.  A person appointed to serve out the balance of an unexpired term may be reappointed for an additional consecutive four-year term. Members of the board may remain on the board until a successor is appointed.

A person is qualified to serve as a member of the board if such person is a graduate of a school of veterinary medicine and a resident of and has been licensed to practice veterinary medicine in for the five years preceding the time of such person’s appointment; except that there shall always be two members on the board who are consumers of services provided by a licensed veterinarian and five members of the board who shall be licensed and practicing veterinarians in Colorado.

The governor may remove any member of the board for misconduct, incompetence, or neglect of duty or other sufficient cause after notice and administrative hearing.

All moneys collected or received by the board shall be transmitted to the state treasurer, who shall credit the same and the general assembly must make annual appropriations pursuant to said section for the expenditures of the board incurred in the performance of its duties.

The board has the power to:

a) Examine and determine the qualifications and fitness of applicants for a license to practice veterinary medicine in this state;
b) Issue, renew, deny, suspend, or revoke licenses to practice veterinary medicine in the state or otherwise discipline or fine, or both, licensees consistent with this article and the rules adopted by the board under this article;
c) Regulate artificial insemination and ova transplantation of cattle or other animal species by establishing rules and regulations for standards of practice, including rules relating to methods and procedures for safe artificial insemination and ova transplantation;

d) Establish, pursuant to section 24-34-105, C.R.S., and publish annually a schedule of fees for licensing and registration of veterinarians. The board shall base the fee on its anticipated financial requirements for the year.
e) (I) Conduct investigations;
(II) Administer oaths, take affirmations of witnesses, and issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of all relevant papers, books, records, documentary evidence, and materials in any hearing, investigation, accusation, or other matter coming before the board. The board may appoint an administrative law judge, to take evidence and to make findings and report them to the board.
(III) Upon failure of a witness to comply with a subpoena or process, the district court of the county in which the subpoenaed person or licensee resides or conducts business, upon application by the board and with notice to the subpoenaed person or licensee, may issue to the person or licensee an order requiring that person or licensee to appear before the board; to produce the relevant papers, books, records, documentary evidence, or materials if so ordered; or to give evidence touching the matter under investigation or in question. Failure to obey the order of the court may be punished by the court as a contempt of court.
f) Hold hearings on all matters properly brought before the board. An administrative law judge may conduct all hearings for denying, suspending, or revoking a license or for any other similar matter properly brought before the board and assigned by the board to the administrative law judge, subject to appropriations made to the department of personnel. An administrative law judge shall be appointed. Disciplinary and punitive actions of the board shall be made public.

g) Bring proceedings in the courts for the enforcement of this article or any regulations made by the board;
(h) Adopt, amend, or repeal all rules necessary for its government and all regulations necessary to carry into effect the provisions of this article;
(i) Issue a cease-and-desist order.

The board may, at any time, inspect veterinary premises to assure that they are clean and sanitary[ii].

Application for license – qualifications

Any person twenty-one years of age or older desiring a license to practice veterinary medicine may make written application to the board on forms provided by the board. The application shall be accompanied by a fee in an amount established and published by the board.  The board may deny licensure to any applicant if any of his or her actions would be grounds for disciplinary action under the provisions of section 12-64-111.

Academic license

Pursuant to C.R.S. 12-64-107.5, a veterinarian who is employed at a school of veterinary medicine and who practices veterinary medicine in the course of his or her employment responsibilities must either make written application to the board for an academic license.

A person who applies for an academic license must submit proof to the board that s/he:

a) Graduated from a school of veterinary medicine located in the United States or another country; and
b) Is employed by an accredited school of veterinary medicine in Colorado.

12-64-108–License by endorsement – rules.

  The board may issue a license by endorsement to engage in the practice of veterinary medicine in this state to an applicant who has a license in good standing as a veterinarian in another jurisdiction if the applicant presents proof satisfactory to the board that, at the time of application for a Colorado license by endorsement, the applicant possesses credentials and qualifications that are substantially equivalent to the Colorado requirements for licensure set forth in section 12-64-107. The board may specify, by rule, what constitutes substantially equivalent credentials and qualifications.

Renewal of License

Pursuant to C.R.S. 12-64-110, all licenses must be renewed or reinstated pursuant to a schedule established by the director of the division of registrations within the department of regulatory agencies.  If a person fails to renew his or her license pursuant to the schedule established by the director of the division of registrations, such license shall expire.  Any person whose license has expired is subject to the penalties.

C.R.S. 12-64-110 provides that the board, by rule, may waive a licensed veterinarian’s renewal fee while he or she is on active duty with any branch of the armed services of the United States. The period during which the renewal fee is waived cannot exceed the longer of three years or the duration of a national emergency.

C.R.S. 12-64-110 provides that in order to obtain license renewal, each licensee, except as otherwise provided, is required to complete a board-approved veterinary continuing educational program of at least 32 hours biennially.  The board has the authority to excuse licensees, as groups or individuals, from biennially continuing educational requirements for a good and sufficient reason.

Inactive license

Pursuant to C.R.S. 12-64-110.5, a person licensed to practice veterinary medicine, upon written notice to the board by first-class mail, shall have his or her name transferred to an inactive list.  Such inactive status shall be noted on the face of any license issued thereafter while the licensee remains inactive.  Should such person wish to resume the practice of veterinary medicine within a three-year period after being placed on an inactive list, s/he must file a proper application, pay the registration renewal fee, and meet the cumulative annual continuing education requirements.

C.R.S. 12-64-110.5 provides that if a licensee who remains on inactive status for a period longer than three years wishes to resume the practice of veterinary medicine, such licensee shall be required to file a proper application, pay the examination fee, and retake the national exam.

C.R.S. 12-64-110.5 provides that a licensee who has maintained an active license in good standing in another state during the period said licensee’s Colorado license is inactive shall not be required to retake the national exam.

Discipline of licensees

Pursuant to C.R.S. 12-64-111, upon signed complaint by any complainant or upon its own motion, the board may proceed to a hearing.  After a hearing, and by a concurrence of a majority of members, the board may revoke or suspend the license of, place on probation, or otherwise discipline or fine, any licensed veterinarian for any of the following reasons:

a) Violation of any of the provisions of this article or any of the rules of the board;
b) Fraud, misrepresentation, or deception in attempting to obtain or in obtaining a license;
c) Failure to display a license;
d) Fraud, deception, misrepresentation, or dishonest or illegal practices in or connected with the practice of veterinary medicine;
e) Misrepresentation in the inspection of food for human consumption;
f) Fraudulent issuance or use of any health certificate, vaccination certificate, test chart, or blank form used in the practice of veterinary medicine to prevent the dissemination of animal disease, transportation of diseased animals, or the sale of inedible products of animal origin for human consumption;
g) Fraud or dishonesty in the application or reporting of any test for disease in animals;
h) Failure to keep veterinary premises and equipment in a clean and sanitary condition;
i) Refusal to permit the board to inspect veterinary premises during business hours;
j) Use of advertising or solicitation which is false or misleading;
(k) Incompetence, negligence, or other malpractice in the practice of veterinary medicine;
l) Unprofessional or unethical conduct or engaging in practices in connection with the practice of veterinary medicine that are in violation of generally accepted standards of veterinary practice as defined in this article or prescribed by the rules of the board;
m) Willful making of any false statement as to any material matter in any oath or affidavit which is required by this article;
n) Conviction of a charge of cruelty to animals;
o) Conviction of a violation of the “Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1992”, article 18 of title 18, C.R.S., the federal “Controlled Substances Act”, or the federal “Controlled Substances Import and Export Act”, or any of them;
p) Conviction of a crime in the courts of or of a crime in any other state, any territory, or any other country for an offense related to the conduct regulated by this article, regardless of whether the sentence is deferred.  A plea of guilty or a plea of nolo contendere accepted by the court shall be considered as a conviction.
q) Conviction upon charges which involve the unlawful practice of veterinary medicine, and, based upon a record of such conviction, without any other testimony, the board may take temporary disciplinary action, even though an appeal for review by a higher court may be pending;
r) Permitting another to use his license for the purpose of treating or offering to treat sick, injured, or afflicted animals;
s) Practicing veterinary medicine under a false or assumed name, or impersonating another practitioner of a like, similar, or different name;
s) Maintenance of a professional or business connection with any other person who continues to violate any of the provisions of this article or rules of the board after ten days following receipt of the board’s written request for termination of such connection;
t) Addiction to, dependence on, or the habitual use or abuse of intoxicating liquors, a habit-forming drug, or a controlled substance;
u) A determination that’s/ he is mentally incompetent by a court of competent jurisdiction and such court has entered, an order specifically finding that the mental incompetency is of such a degree that s/he is incapable of continuing to practice veterinary medicine;
v) Engaging in the practice of veterinary medicine while on inactive status;
w) Engaging in any act prohibited in article 22 of this title, regarding the dispensing of drugs, medicines, poisons, or controlled substances;
(x) Failing to report a known violation of any of the provisions of this section;
(aa) Administering, dispensing, distributing, or prescribing any prescription drug other than in the course of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship;
(bb) An act or omission which fails to meet generally accepted standards of veterinary practice;
(cc) Practicing or performing services beyond a licensee’s scope of competence;
(dd) Engaging in any act prohibited in article 22 of this title.

Pursuant to C.R.S. 12-64-111, when a complaint or investigation discloses an instance of misconduct that, in the opinion of the board, does not warrant formal action by the board but that should not be dismissed as being without merit, a letter of admonition may be issued and sent, by certified mail, to the licensee.  When a letter of admonition is sent by the board, by certified mail, to a licensee, such licensee shall be advised that s/he has the right to request in writing, within 20 days after receipt of the letter, that formal disciplinary proceedings be initiated to adjudicate the propriety of the conduct upon which the letter of admonition is based.
If the request for adjudication is timely made, the letter of admonition is deemed vacated and the matter shall be processed by means of formal disciplinary proceedings.

C.R.S. 12-64-111 provides that when a complaint or investigation discloses an instance of conduct that does not warrant formal action by the board and, in the opinion of the board, the complaint should be dismissed, but the board has noticed indications of possible errant conduct by the licensee that could lead to serious consequences if not corrected, a confidential letter of concern may be issued and sent to the licensee. The record of conviction of a felony in a court of competent jurisdiction shall be sufficient evidence for such disciplinary action to be taken as may be deemed proper by the board. For the purposes of this article, a conviction shall be deemed to be a conviction which has been upheld by the highest appellate court having jurisdiction or a conviction upon which the time for filing an appeal has passed.

C.R.S. 12-64-111 provides that with respect to denying the issuance of a veterinary license or to taking disciplinary action against a veterinarian, the board may accept as prima facie evidence of grounds for such action any federal or state action taken against a veterinarian from another jurisdiction if the violation which prompted the disciplinary action in such jurisdiction would constitute grounds for disciplinary action under this section.

C.R.S. 12-64-111 provides that in addition to any other penalty that may be imposed pursuant to this section, any person violating any provision of this article or any rules promulgated pursuant to this article may be fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars for any such violation. Any moneys collected pursuant to this subsection (4) shall be transmitted to the state treasurer, who shall credit the moneys to the general fund.

C.R.S. 12-64-111 provides that when a complaint or an investigation discloses an instance of misconduct that, in the opinion of the board, warrants formal action, the complaint shall not be resolved by a deferred settlement, action, judgment, or prosecution. If it appears to the board, based upon credible evidence as presented in a written complaint by any person or on the board’s own motion, that a licensed veterinarian is acting in a manner that is an imminent threat to the health and safety of the public, or a person is acting or has acted without the required license, the board may issue an order to cease and desist such activity. The order must set forth the statutes and rules alleged to have been violated, the facts alleged to have constituted the violation, and the requirement that all unlawful acts or unlicensed practices immediately cease.

C.R.S. 12-64-111 provides that the hearing on an order to show cause must be commenced no sooner than ten and no later than 45 calendar days after the date of transmission or service of the notification by the board.  If the person against whom an order to show cause has been issued does not appear at the hearing, the board may present evidence that notification was properly sent or served upon such person and such other evidence related to the matter as the board deems appropriate.  The board shall issue the order within ten days after the board’s determination related to reasonable attempts to notify the respondent, and the order shall become final as to that person by operation of law.  If the board reasonably finds that the person against whom the order to show cause was issued is acting or has acted without the required license, or has or is about to engage in acts or practices constituting violations of this article, a final cease-and-desist order may be issued, directing such person to cease and desist from further unlawful acts or unlicensed practices.

C.R.S. 12-64-111 provides that the board must provide notice of the final cease-and-desist order within ten calendar days after the hearing conducted to each person against whom the final order has been issued.  The final order issued shall be effective when issued and shall be a final order for purposes of judicial review.  If it appears to the board, based upon credible evidence presented to the board, that a person has engaged in or is about to engage in any unlicensed act or practice, any act or practice constituting a violation of this article, any rule promulgated pursuant to this article, any order issued pursuant to this article, or any act or practice constituting grounds for administrative sanction pursuant to this article, the board may enter into a stipulation with such person.

C.R.S. 12-64-111 provides that if any person fails to comply with a final cease-and-desist order or a stipulation, the board may request the attorney general or the district attorney for the judicial district in which the alleged violation exists to bring, and if so requested such attorney shall bring, suit for a temporary restraining order and for injunctive relief to prevent any further or continued violation of the final order. A person aggrieved by the final cease-and-desist order may seek judicial review of the board’s determination or of the board’s final order in a court of competent jurisdiction.


C.R.S. 12-64-113 provides that any person whose license is revoked is ineligible to apply for a license under this article for at least two years after the date of revocation of the license. The board shall treat a subsequent application for licensure from a person whose license was revoked as an application for a new license under this article.

Penalties for unauthorized practice

C.R.S. 12-64-114 provides that no person who practices veterinary medicine without a currently valid license may receive any compensation for services so rendered. Any person who practices or offers or attempts to practice veterinary medicine without an active license issued under this article commits a class 2 misdemeanor and shall be punished as provided in section 18-1.3-501, C.R.S., for the first offense, and for the second or any subsequent offense, the person commits a class 6 felony and shall be punished as provided in section 18-1.3-401, C.R.S.

C.R.S. 12-64-114 provides that the board or a citizen of this state may bring an action to enjoin a person from practicing veterinary medicine without a currently valid license. If the court finds that the person is violating, or is threatening to violate, this article, it may enter an injunction restraining him or her from such unlawful acts.

Abandonment of animals

Pursuant to C.R.S. 12-64-115, any animal placed in the custody of a licensed veterinarian for treatment, boarding, or other care that is unclaimed by its owner or his or her agent for more than ten days after written notice, by certified mail, return receipt requested, is given to the addressee at his or her last-known address is deemed to be abandoned and may be turned over to the nearest humane society or animal shelter or disposed of in a manner deemed appropriate by the custodian

C.R.S. 12-64-115 provides that the giving of notice to the owner, or the agent of the owner, of such animal by the licensed veterinarian, as provided in subsection (1) of this section, shall relieve the licensed veterinarian and any custodian to whom such animal may be given of any further liability for disposal. Such procedure by the licensed veterinarian shall not constitute grounds for disciplining procedure under this article.

Veterinary students

Pursuant to C.R.S. 12-64-116, all duties performed by a veterinary student must be under the on-the-premises supervision of a licensed veterinarian.  If the student does not conform to the following requirements, the licensed veterinarian is in violation of this article.  A veterinary student:

a) Is permitted to administer therapeutic or prophylactic drugs only under the direct, on-the-premises supervision of a licensed veterinarian;
b) Is permitted to perform surgery, only if s/he is competent and has the necessary training and experience, under the direct, on-the-premises personal supervision of a licensed veterinarian;
c) Shall associate himself with a licensed veterinarian, and his or her work shall be limited to practice under the direct, on-the-premises supervision of the licensed veterinarian;
d) Shall not participate in the operation of a branch office, clinic, or allied establishment unless a licensed veterinarian is present on the premises.

Veterinary student preceptors

Pursuant to C.R.S. 12-64-117, all duties of a veterinary student preceptor must be performed upon the request of the licensed veterinarian who is responsible for appropriately supervising, on the premises, the veterinary student preceptor’s work.  It is unlawful for the veterinary student preceptor to participate in the operation of a branch office, clinic, or allied establishment unless a licensed veterinarian is present on the premises.

Emergency care or treatment

Pursuant to C.R.S. 12-64-118, any licensed veterinarian who in good faith administers emergency care or treatment, or euthanasia for humane reasons, to an animal, without compensation, either voluntarily or at the request of a state or local governmental officer or employee, is not liable for civil damages for good-faith acts in the administration of such care or treatment. This immunity does not apply in the event of a wanton or reckless disregard of the rights of the owner of the animal.

Veterinary records in custody of animal care providers

Pursuant to C.R.S. 12-64-120, animal care providers shall make available the veterinary records in their custody as follows:

a) The owner of an animal or the owner’s designated representative shall have reasonable access to such animal’s records for inspection;
b) The owner or the owner’s designated representative may obtain a summary of such animal’s records upon request, following termination of care or treatment; and
c) Copies of veterinary records, including digital records, digital images, diagnostic quality X rays, CT SCANs, MRIs, or other films, shall be furnished to:
(I) he owner or the owner’s designated representative upon payment of reasonable costs; and
(II) Local law enforcement authorities and the bureau of animal protection in the department of agriculture in connection with an investigation of animal cruelty pursuant to section 18-9-202, C.R.S., or animal fighting pursuant to section 18-9-204, C.R.S.

Pursuant to C.R.S. 12-64-120, records concerning an animal’s care are available to the public unless a veterinary-patient-client privilege exists with respect to such animal.  All practicing veterinarians in this state shall maintain accurate records for every new or existing veterinarian-client-patient relationship as defined in section 12-64-103 (15.5). In the animal patient records, the licensed veterinarian shall justify and describe the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment administered or prescribed and all medications and dosages prescribed in a legible, written, printed, or electronically prepared document that is unalterable. The licensed veterinarian shall prepare the records in a manner that allows any subsequent evaluation of the same animal patient record to yield comprehensive medical, patient, and veterinarian identifying information. Licensed veterinarians shall maintain animal patient records for a minimum of three years after the animal patient’s last medical examination.

Reporting requirements

Pursuant to C.R.S. 12-64-121, licensed veterinarian who, during the course of attending or treating an animal, has reasonable cause to know or suspect that the animal has been subjected to cruelty in violation of section 18-9-202, C.R.S., or subjected to animal fighting in violation of section 18-9-204, C.R.S., shall report or cause a report to be made of the animal cruelty or animal fighting to a local law enforcement agency or the bureau of animal protection.

C.R.S. 12-64-121 provides that a licensed veterinarian shall not knowingly make a false report of animal cruelty or animal fighting to a local law enforcement agency or to the bureau of animal protection. A licensed veterinarian who willfully violates the provisions of subsection (1) or (2) of this section commits a class 1 petty offense, punishable as provided in section 18-1.3-503, C.R.S.

C.R.S. 12-64-121 provides that a licensed veterinarian who in good faith reports a suspected incident of animal cruelty or animal fighting to the proper authorities in accordance with subsection (1) of this section shall be immune from liability in any civil or criminal action brought against the veterinarian for reporting the incident. In any civil or criminal proceeding in which the liability of a veterinarian for reporting an incident described in subsection (1) of this section is at issue, the good faith of the veterinarian shall be presumed.

C.R.S. 12-64-121 provides that the veterinary-patient-client privilege described in section 24-72-204 (3) (a) (XIV), C.R.S., may not be asserted for the purpose of excluding or refusing evidence or testimony in a prosecution for an act of animal cruelty under section 18-9-202, C.R.S., or for an act of animal fighting under section 18-9-204, C.R.S.

[i] C.R.S. 12-64-104.

[ii] C.R.S. 12-64-105.

Inside Colorado Laws on Regulation and Licensing of Veterinarians