Under Mississippi law, provisions relating to regulation of veterinarians are provided under Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-51 through Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-93.
Board of Veterinary Medicine
The Mississippi Board of Veterinary Medicine shall be appointed by the Governor and shall consist of five (5) licensed veterinarians, with at least one (1) member from each of the Supreme Court districts of the state and not more than two (2) members from the same Supreme Court district. All members of the Board of Veterinary Medicine shall be veterinarians who have practiced in this state for a period of not less than five (5) years and shall be graduates of a school of veterinary medicine recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Appointments shall be for a five-year term or to fill an unexpired term[ii].
Powers and Duties of the Board
The board is responsible for adopting rules regarding the licensure of veterinarians and for the establishment and publication of standards of practice and professional conduct for the practice of veterinary medicine. The board is authorized to initiate disciplinary procedures, hold hearings, reprimand, suspend, revoke or refuse to issue or renew credentials and perform any other acts that may be necessary to regulate veterinary technicians and technologists. In addition, the board may establish and publish annually a schedule of fees for licensing and certification and conduct investigations of suspected violations to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to initiate disciplinary proceedings. Also, the board may nspect veterinary premises and equipment, including practice vehicles, on a triennial basis and assess an inspection fee in the amount of One Hundred Dollars ($ 100.00) per inspection and an additional fee of Fifty Dollars ($ 50.00) for each licensed veterinarian employed by the inspected veterinary establishment[iii].
Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-59 stipulates that only a licensed veterinarian can practice veterinary medicine in Mississippi. However, the holder of a valid temporary permit may practice veterinary medicine unless otherwise exempt under the rules. Also, persons have to practice veterinary medicine only within the context of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship. According to Mississippi law, a veterinarian-client-patient relationship cannot be established solely by telephonic or other electronic means[iv].
It is to be noted that the following class of persons are exempted from the licensing requirement:
- Any employee of the federal, state or local government performing his official duties.
- Any student in an accredited college of veterinary medicine or an accredited program in veterinary technology performing duties or actions assigned by instructors or working under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian.
- Any person advising or performing acts that the board has designated by rule as accepted livestock management practices.
- Any person providing consultation to a licensed veterinarian in this state on the care and management of a patient.
- Any member in good standing of another licensed or regulated profession within any state, or any member of an organization or group approved by the board, providing assistance requested by a veterinarian licensed in the state, acting with informed consent from the client, and acting under the direct or indirect supervision and control of the licensed veterinarian. Providing assistance involves hands-on active participation in the treatment and care of the patient. The licensed veterinarian shall maintain responsibility for the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
- Any veterinarian employed by an accredited college of veterinary medicine providing assistance requested by a veterinarian licensed in the state, acting with informed consent from the client, and acting under the direct or indirect supervision and control of the licensed veterinarian. Providing assistance involves hands-on active participation in the treatment and care of the patient. The licensed veterinarian shall maintain responsibility for the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
- Any pharmacist, merchant or manufacturer selling at his regular place of business medicines, feed, appliances or other products used in the prevention or treatment of animal diseases as permitted by law.
- Any person lawfully engaged in horseshoeing.
- Any person rendering advice without expectation of compensation.
- Any owner of an animal and any of the owner’s regular employees caring for and treating the animal belonging to such owner, except when the ownership of the animal was transferred for purposes of circumventing this chapter. A veterinarian-client-patient relationship must exist when prescription drugs or nonprescription drugs intended for extralabel use are administered, dispensed or prescribed.
- Any instructor at an accredited college of veterinary medicine or accredited program in veterinary technology performing his regular functions or any person lecturing or giving instructions or demonstrations at an accredited college of veterinary medicine, accredited program in veterinary technology or in a veterinary or veterinary technology continuing education course or seminar.
- Any person selling or applying pesticides, insecticides or herbicides as permitted by law.
- Any person engaging in bona fide scientific research that reasonably requires experimentation involving animals.
- Any certified veterinary technician or other employee of a licensed veterinarian performing duties other than diagnosis, prognosis, prescription or surgery under the direction and supervision of the veterinarian who shall be responsible for the performance of the employee.
- Any graduate of a nonaccredited college of veterinary medicine who is in the process of obtaining educational equivalence and is performing duties or actions assigned by instructors in an accredited college of veterinary medicine.
- Any animal shelter employee acting under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian or authorized by the board to perform euthanasia in the course and scope of employment.
- Any licensed wildlife rehabilitator[v].
According to the Grandfather clause, any person who holds a valid license to practice veterinary medicine in Mississippi on July 1, 2005, will be recognized as a licensed veterinarian and will be entitled to retain that status so long as s/he complies with the regulations[vi].
In order to obtain a license, a person shall file a written application and application fee with the board. The application shall show that the applicant is a graduate of an accredited college of veterinary medicine or has the educational equivalence as set by the board. The application shall also show that the applicant is a person of good moral character and any other information and proof as the board may require. If the applicant possesses the proper qualifications, it shall admit the applicant to the next examination, or if the applicant is eligible for license by endorsement, the board may grant him a license. If an applicant is found not qualified to take the examination or for a license by endorsement, the board shall notify the applicant in writing within thirty (30) days of its finding and the grounds for its findings. An applicant found unqualified may request a hearing before the board.The board may grant a temporary license to an applicant to practice veterinary medicine until the scheduled state board examination, if the applicant pays the application fee, provides sufficient evidence that he meets the qualifications for licensure, and provides evidence that he resides in the State of Mississippi. The board may grant a second temporary permit, but the board may not grant more than two (2) temporary permits to any one (1) person[viii]. A licensee should display the license in the facility in which the licensee practices[ix].
The board will provide for at least one examination for licensing, certification or registration during each calendar year and may provide for such additional examinations as are necessary. The board shall give public notice of the time and place of each examination at least one hundred twenty (120) days before the date of the examination. Examinations are designed to test the examinee’s knowledge of and proficiency in the subjects and techniques pertaining to the practice of veterinary medicine commonly taught in an accredited college of veterinary medicine. The passing score shall be determined by the testing entity. The board may adopt and use the results of a nationally recognized testing entity such as the National Board of Veterinary Medical Licensing Examiners[x].
Any person not licensed under Mississippi laws are required to take the examination and application must be made at least 30 days before the examination. The examination shall be administered annually on the second Tuesday of June. Any person who fails an examination may be admitted to any subsequent examination on payment of the application fee[xi].
The board may issue a license by endorsement to an applicant who furnishes satisfactory proof that he is a graduate of an accredited college of veterinary medicine or the educational equivalence. The applicant must also show that he is a person of good moral character and is licensed to practice veterinary medicine in at least one (1) state, territory or district of the United States and has practiced veterinary medicine in one or more of those states without disciplinary action by any state or federal agency for at least the three (3) years immediately before filing the application[xii].
Faculty members employed at the College of Veterinary Medicine who are eligible for licensure shall obtain a Mississippi veterinary license. Faculty members not eligible for a Mississippi license may qualify for a Mississippi faculty license under one of the following criterion:
- Graduate veterinarians who have completed an advanced degree at a college of veterinary medicine accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (AVMA-COE);
- Graduate veterinarians who have completed a formal residency from an AVMA-COE accredited college of veterinary medicine, or other residency approved by the AVMA;
- Graduate veterinarians who are board certified in a specialty recognized by the AVMA-COE; or
- Graduate veterinarians who are board certified by the European Board of Veterinary Specialization[xiii].
Any person holding a Mississippi faculty license desiring to practice veterinary medicine outside the authority of the institution will be required to meet the criteria for obtaining a valid Mississippi veterinary license[xiv].
All licenses shall expire August 1 of each year and may be renewed after meeting the continuing education requirements and payment of the license renewal fee. Any person may renew an expired license within five (5) years of the date of its expiration by making written application for renewal, paying the current renewal fee and a reinstatement fee of Five Hundred Dollars ($ 500.00), plus all delinquent renewal fees and complying with continuing education requirements[xv].
The board may waive the renewal fee of a licensed veterinarian during the period when he is on active military duty. Similarly, any licensed veterinarian who is 65 years of age or older and who is employed only on a part-time basis only is exempt from renewal fee requirement. The payment of the annual license renewal fee shall be optional for all veterinarians of 70 years and older[xvi].
Discipline of Veterinarians
After proper hearing, the board may revoke, suspend or limit a license, impose an administrative fine not to exceed $ 1,000.00 for each separate offense, for any of the following violations committed by a licensed physician:
- The employment of fraud, misrepresentation or deception in obtaining a license.
- The inability to practice veterinary medicine with reasonable skill and safety because of a physical or mental disability, including deterioration of mental capacity, loss of motor skills or abuse of drugs or alcohol of sufficient degree to diminish the person’s ability to deliver competent patient care.
- The use of advertising or solicitation that is false or misleading.
- Conviction of felony; any crime involving cruelty, abuse or neglect of animals, including bestiality; moral turpitude; or any crime involving unlawful sexual contact, child abuse, the use or threatened use of a weapon, the infliction of injury, indecent exposure, perjury, false reporting, criminal impersonation, forgery and any other crime involving a lack of truthfulness, veracity or honesty, intimidation of a victim or witness, larceny, or alcohol or drugs.
- Incompetence, gross negligence or other malpractice in the practice of veterinary medicine.
- Aiding the unlawful practice of veterinary medicine or fraud or dishonesty in the application or reporting of any test for disease in animals.
- Failure to report or making false or misleading report of, any contagious or infectious disease.
- Failure to keep accurate patient records.
- Dishonesty or gross negligence in the performance of food safety inspections or in the issuance of any health or inspection certificates.
- Failure to keep veterinary premises and equipment, including practice vehicles, in a clean and sanitary condition.
- Failure to permit the board or its agents to enter and inspect veterinary premises and equipment, including practice vehicles.
- Revocation, suspension or limitation of a license to practice veterinary medicine by another state, territory or district of the United States or loss or suspension of accreditation by any federal or state agency.
- Unprofessional conduct.
- The dispensing, distribution, prescription or administration of any veterinary prescription drug, or the extralabel use of any drug in the absence of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
- Violations of state or federal drug laws or any order of the board[xvii].
The board may establish a program of care, counseling or treatment for impaired veterinarians including organized treatment, care and counseling[xviii].
Any person aggrieved by a decision of the board may appeal to the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi, in accordance with the Uniform Rules of Circuit and County Court Practice governing appeals from administrative agencies[xix].
Licensed veterinarians are prohibited from disclosing any information concerning the care of a patient except on written authorization or by waiver by the client or by court order, by subpoena[xx]. Any licensed veterinarian who reports, in good faith and in the normal course of business, a suspected incident of animal cruelty to the proper authorities will be immune from civil or criminal liability for reporting the incident[xxi].
A licensed veterinarian will not be liable for abandonment of animals if s/he follows the procedural safeguards. Accordingly, any animal placed in the custody of a licensed veterinarian for treatment, boarding or other care which is unclaimed by the client for more than 10 days after written notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, or United States priority mail, confirmation of receipt, is sent to the client at the client’s last known address shall be deemed to be abandoned. The abandonment shall constitute the relinquishment of all rights and claims by the client to the animal. The abandoned animal may be turned over to the nearest humane society or animal shelter or otherwise disposed of or destroyed by the licensed veterinarian in a humane manner.
Any veterinarian subjected to disciplinary action earlier may be reinstated at any time, with or without an examination, by approval of the board after written application is made to the board showing cause justifying relicensing or reinstatement[xxiii].
[i] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-55.
[iii] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-57.
[iv] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-59.
[v] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-61.
[vi] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-65.
[vii] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-67.
[x] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-69.
[xii] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-71.
[xiii] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-73.
[xv] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-75.
[xvii] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-77.
[xviii] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-79.
[xix] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-81.
[xx] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-83.
[xxi] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-87.
[xxii] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-89.
[xxiii] Miss. Code Ann. § 73-39-93.