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Massachusetts Laws on Regulation and Licensing of Veterinarians

Under Massachusetts law, provisions relating to regulation of physicians are provided under ALM GL ch. 112, § 54 through ch. 112, ALM GL ch. 112, § 60.

The board of registration in veterinary medicine (board), may make by-laws and rules for regulating the conduct of veterinarians[i].  Three members of the board shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.  However, the quorum for revocation of a license is four[ii].

Practice of Veterinary Medicine
Any person who either directly or indirectly, diagnoses, makes a prognosis, treats, administers, prescribes, operates on, manipulates or applies any drug, biologic, or chemical or any apparatus or appliance for any disease, pain, deformity, defect, injury, wound or physical condition of any animal for the prevention of or to test the presence of any disease, or who cuts any tissue, muscle, organ or structure of any animal for the above described purposes or for the purpose of altering the natural condition of any animal or for any other purpose or who holds himself out as being able, available or legally authorized to do so shall be regarded as practicing veterinary medicine[iii].

However, the following activities are not considered as practicing of veterinary medicine:

  • Calling a duly licensed veterinarian of any other state to Massachusetts with respect to any case under treatment by a registered veterinarian in Massachusetts.
  • The experimentation and research of a registered physician, dentist, osteopath, pharmacist or veterinarian.
  • The lawful experimentation and research activities conducted at any hospital, laboratory, or educational institution approved by the board, or conducted under the general supervision and control of a registered veterinarian, physician, dentist, or osteopath.
  • The gratuitous giving of aid or relief to an animal in an accident or emergency provided the person giving the aid or relief does not represent himself as a registered veterinarian.
  • The nursing care to animals in the establishment of a registered veterinarian under his general supervision by his/her employees during the course of any procedure or treatment.
  • Any advising with respect to livestock management practices.
  • The performing of veterinary or surgical works or the giving of advice to one’s neighbors by a person, provided that s/he does not hold himself out as a registered veterinarian or receive pecuniary consideration.
  • The drawing of blood by animal health inspectors in connection with the programs to control and eradicate brucellosis in animals[iv].

Licensing of Veterinarians

The applicant has to be eighteen years of age or over, of good moral character, and a graduate of an approved veterinary school.  A person who is a graduate of a non-approved veterinary school and obtains a waiver under ALM GL ch. 112, § 55, can also register as a veterinarian[v].  In order to satisfy the proof of the graduation requirement of such an applicant, the board may, in its discretion, accept a letter from the dean of an approved veterinary school which certifies that an applicant has met all of the requirements for graduation and that such applicant shall graduate from said approved veterinary school no later than 210 calendar days after the board’s examination.  If the board refuses to approve a school of veterinary medicine under this section, the applicant can seek a review by a superior court, whose decision shall be final.  An applicant failing to pass an examination satisfactory to the board may be deemed a “Conditional” applicant and may be reexamined only on that portion of the examination failed[vi].

The board may deny license to a convicted felon or who is addicted to any vice to such a degree as to render him/her unfit to practice veterinary medicine.  The board is also empowered to revoke any certificate and cancel the registration of any licensee and may reissue or register anew any veterinarian whose registration was so cancelled after one year.
License shall be renewed annually before the first of March.  In case of default, the board may revoke the license after a hearing.  However, if the licensee pays the renewal fee with any additional charges before the hearing, the default will be removed.  The licensee must produce sufficient evidence of continuing education on renewal[vii].

Examinations conducted by the board are of a scientific and practical character and include the subjects of anatomy, surgery, physiology, animal parasites, obstetrics, pathology, bacteriology, diagnosis and practice, therapeutics, pharmacology, veterinary dentistry or any other subject chosen by the board[viii].

The board may issue a temporary permit without examination pursuant to ALM GL ch. 112, § 56A to any graduate of an approved veterinary school.  Such permit is granted for six months and may be renewed once for another six months, provided, that the applicant must write the next set of examinations and is employed by and practices his/her profession under the direct supervision of a duly licensed veterinarian practicing in Massachusetts.  It is to be noted that such temporary permit may be summarily revoked by a majority vote of the board[ix].  A temporary permit with examinations may also be issued to a graduate of a veterinary school which is not approved by the board.  In such cases, the applicant must be employed by and practices his/her profession under the direct supervision of a duly licensed veterinarian practicing in Massachusetts[x].

A licensed veterinarian in another state and who has been engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine for at least five consecutive years can be granted license to practice in Massachusetts[xi].  For this, the person must produce before the board a copy of his/her certificate of registration or license duly attested under seal by the board of examiners, which is equivalent to the requirements of Massachusetts.  In addition, the person must pass a practical examination, without examination on the theory of veterinary medicine on showing that the person intends to remove to and reside in Massachusetts.  It is further required that the other state must offer similar privilege to veterinarians registered under Massachusetts law, who are moving to such states[xii].

Any veterinary student, enrolled in an accredited veterinary school, who is engaged in clinical training under the direct supervision of a veterinarian duly registered under ALM GL ch. 112, § 56 D, or under the direct supervision of a veterinarian otherwise licensed to practice in Massachusetts and duly registered with clinical training and externship programs of an accredited school is exempted from the licensing provisions[xiii].
Any veterinarian registered in Massachusetts or any other state, who renders emergency care to an animal in good faith, as a volunteer and without fee, will not be liable in a suit for damages as a result of his/her acts or omissions during such emergency care[xiv].

ALM GL ch. 112, § 59 enumerates the penalties.   The following acts are prohibited under the section:

  • fraudulent use of any degree or certificate implying a practitioner of veterinary medicine with the intention of practicing veterinary medicine shall be punished by a fine of not more than 200 dollars or by imprisonment for not more than 90 days and upon a subsequent conviction shall be punished by a fine of not more than 500 dollars or by imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.
  • Any registered veterinarian or incorporated veterinary hospital knowingly employing an unauthorized person to practice veterinary medicine shall be punished by a revocation or suspension of license as the case may be and by a fine of not more than 200 dollars or by imprisonment for not more than three months, or both.

The board may revoke or suspend a license of a person for the following acts:

  • The employment of fraud, misrepresentation or deception in obtaining a license.
  • Conviction of a felony.
  • Chronic inebriety or habitual use of drugs.
  • Having professional connection with or lending the use of one’s name to any illegal practitioner of veterinary medicine.
  • Conviction of a violation of any state or federal law, regulating narcotics, or a settlement of a tax liability in connection with such violation.
  • Fraud or dishonesty in applying or reporting tuberculin or other biological tests.
  • False or misleading advertising.
  • Conviction on a charge of cruelty to animals.
  • Failure to keep one’s office or hospital and equipment in a clean and sanitary condition.
  • Failure to properly supervise a person practicing veterinary medicine[xv].

Miscellaneous Provisions

Any veterinarian may dispose of any animal abandoned in his/her establishment, after giving notice of his intention to do so to the owner at his last known address by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested[xvi].  The veterinarian has to allow a period of ten days to elapse after the receipt if returned before disposing of such animal[xvii].

ALM GL ch. 112, § 54- ALM GL ch. 112, § 59 does not prohibit advice or service, in a case of emergency, by a person other than a registered veterinarian.  Thus, farmers are not prohibited from rendering services to their neighbors, if they do not hold themselves out as registered veterinarians[xviii].

A registered veterinarian who reports, in good faith and in the normal course of business, a suspected act of cruelty to animals to a police officer, or a special state police officer will not be liable in a civil or criminal action for reporting such act[xix].

Every registered veterinarian who writes a prescription upon a prescription blank of a hospital or clinic shall print or type his/her name directly below his/her signature thereon[xx].

[i] ALM GL ch. 112, § 54.

[ii] Id.

[iii] ALM GL ch. 112, § 58.

[iv] Id.

[v] ALM GL ch. 112, § 55.

[vi] Id.

[vii] Id.

[viii] ALM GL ch. 112, § 56.

[ix] ALM GL ch. 112, § 56A

[x] Id.

[xi] ALM GL ch. 112, § 56C.

[xii] Id.

[xiii] ALM GL ch. 112, § 56E.

[xiv] ALM GL ch. 112, § 58A.

[xv] ALM GL ch. 112, § 59.

[xvi] ALM GL ch. 112, § 59A.

[xvii] Id.

[xviii] ALM GL ch. 112, § 60.

[xix] ALM GL ch. 112, § 58B.

[xx] ALM GL ch. 112, § 56B.


Inside Massachusetts Laws on Regulation and Licensing of Veterinarians