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Pennsylvania Laws on Regulation and Licensing of Veterinarians

The Pennsylvania laws on regulation and licensing of veterinarians are found in 63 P.S. § 485.1 through 63 P.S. § 485.35.  In Pennsylvania, the practice of veterinary medicine is a privilege which is granted by legislative authority in the interest of the public health, safety and welfare and to protect the public from being misled by incompetent, unscrupulous and unauthorized persons and from unprofessional or illegal practices by persons licensed to practice veterinary medicine.  The act is enacted in the interest of society, health, safety and welfare of Pennsylvanians[i].

The board must consist of nine members, as follows:

(1) The Commissioner of Professional and Occupational Affairs.

(2) Two members representing the general public who shall be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of a majority of the members elected to the Senate.

(3) Five members, appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of a majority of the members elected to the Senate, who are licensed to practice veterinary medicine under the laws of this Commonwealth and who have been engaged in the full-time practice of veterinary medicine in this Commonwealth for at least five years immediately preceding their appointment.

(4) One member, appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of a majority of the members elected to the Senate, who is certified as a veterinary technician in accordance with this act.

Furthermore, the term of office of each professional and public member must be four years from his or her appointment or until his or her successor has been duly appointed and qualified according to law but no longer than six months beyond the four-year period, except that two of the five veterinarians and one of the two public members appointed to the board to replace members serving on the effective date of this act shall be appointed to terms of only two years and their successors shall be appointed to terms of four years. In the event that any member should die or resign or otherwise become disqualified during his or her term of office, a successor shall be appointed in the same way and with the same qualifications as set forth in subsection (a) and shall hold office for the unexpired term. No member shall be eligible for appointment to serve more than two consecutive terms. Five members of the board must constitute a quorum[ii]

Powers and Duties of Board

The Pennsylvania State Board of Veterinary Medicine may:

(1) Adopt reasonable rules and regulations governing the practice of veterinary medicine as are necessary to enable it to carry out and make effective the purpose and intent of this statutory law.

(2) Adopt rules and regulations of professional conduct appropriate to establish and maintain a high standard of integrity, skills and practice in the profession of veterinary medicine.

(3) Have its rules printed, which must be distributed to all licensed doctors of veterinary medicine.

(4) Administer and enforce the law and rules and regulations regulating the practice of veterinary medicine.

(5) Hold at least two regular meetings each year at a place and on such dates as the board may select for the purpose of conducting examinations of applicants for license to practice veterinary medicine.

(6) Approve the qualifications of applicants for a license to practice veterinary medicine.

(7) Prescribe the subject, character, manner, time and place of holding examinations and the filing of applications for examinations and to conduct examinations.

(8) Issue temporary permits to duly qualified applicants which must be signed by the chairman and attested by the secretary under its adopted seal.

(9) Provide for, regulate and require all persons licensed in accordance with the provisions of this act to register their license biennially, to require as a condition precedent to such biennial registration the payment of the biennial registration fee as provided herein, to issue biennial registration certificates to such persons and to suspend or revoke the registration of such persons who fail, refuse or neglect to register same or pay such fees.

(10) Conduct investigations and hearings upon complaints calling for discipline of a licensee.

(11) Have issued summons and subpoenas for any witnesses or subpoenas duces tecum in connection with any matter within the jurisdiction of the board.

(12) Adopt such forms as it may deem necessary.

(13) Submit annually to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, fifteen days after the Governor has submitted his budget to the General Assembly, a copy of the budget request for the upcoming fiscal year which the board previously submitted to the Department of State.

(14) Submit annually a report, to the Professional Licensure Committee of the House of Representatives and to the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee of the Senate, containing a description of the types of complaints received, status of cases, board action which has been taken and the length of time from the initial complaint to final board resolution[iii].

Licensing of Veterinarians

In Pennsylvania, any person wishing to practice veterinary medicine in this State shall obtain a license from the board and maintain registration. Unless such person shall have obtained such a license it shall be unlawful for him or her to practice veterinary medicine as defined herein and if he or she shall so practice he or she shall be deemed to have violated the provisions of this act. The board may license to practice veterinary medicine any applicant who pays the appropriate fee and submits satisfactory evidence that he or she:

(1) Is eighteen years of age or over.

(2) Is a graduate from an approved school or college of veterinary medicine or in lieu thereof certification acceptable to the board as equivalent to proof of graduation from an approved school or college of veterinary medicine.

(3) Has passed a license examination required by the board.

(4) Has not been convicted of a felonious act prohibited by the act of April 14, 1972 (P.L.233, No. 64)

Pursuant to 63 P.S. § 485.9, a license may be renewed biennially for a period of two years upon payment of the biennial fee, provided that the licensee satisfies the other requirements of this act.  Any licensee of this Commonwealth who is also licensed to practice veterinary medicine in any other state, territory or country shall report this information to the board on the biennial registration application. Any disciplinary action taken in other states, territories or countries shall be reported to the board on the biennial registration application or within ninety days of final disposition, whichever is sooner. Multiple licensure shall be noted on the licensee’s record by the board, and such state, territory or country shall be notified by the board of any disciplinary actions taken against said licensee in this Commonwealth.

Moreover, it must further be the responsibility of the board to promulgate by regulation the qualifications and requirements for the certification and regulation of veterinary technicians.  Such regulations must provide for disciplinary action and must prescribe the grounds for such action. The board must have authority to establish reasonable fees for certification as hereinafter provided in this act[iv].  Each person to whom a license is issued must keep such license conspicuously displayed in his principal office, place of business, or place of employment and must, whenever required, exhibit said license to any member or authorized representative of the board.  Duplicate licenses for additional offices or branch offices may be obtained from the board for a fee established by the board[v].

Furthermore, any person whose license to practice veterinary medicine has expired for failure to make biennial registration over a period not exceeding five years may have same reinstated on compliance with the following:

(1) Presentation to the board of satisfactory evidence of having completed the biennial educational requirements which he or she would have been required to complete if the license had not expired.

(2) Payment of all fees that would have been paid if he or she had maintained his or her license in good standing and any other fees established by regulation of the board.

Any person whose license has expired for failure to make biennial registration over a period of more than five years must be required to apply for a license in accordance with section 9 if he desires to resume practicing veterinary medicine[vi].

Discipline of Veterinarians

The Pennsylvania statutes provide that the board must suspend or revoke any license or certificate or otherwise discipline an applicant, licensee or certificate holder who is found guilty by the board or by a court of one or more of the following:

(1) Wilful or repeated violations of any provisions of this act or any of the rules and regulations of the board.

(2) Fraud or deceit in the procuring or attempting to procure a license to practice veterinary medicine or presenting to the board dishonest or fraudulent evidence of qualifications. Fraud or deception in the process of examination for the purpose of securing a license.

(3) The willful failure to display a license.

(4) Fraud, deception, misrepresentation, dishonest or illegal practices in or connected with the practice of veterinary medicine.

(5) Wilfully making any misrepresentation in the inspection of food for human consumption.

(6) Fraudulently issuing or using any health certificate, inspection certificate, vaccination certificate, test chart or other blank forms 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.

(7) Fraud or dishonesty in applying, treating or reporting on any diagnostic or other biological test.

(8) Failure to keep the equipment and premises of the business establishment in a clean and sanitary condition.

(9) Refusing to permit the board, or duly authorized representatives of the board, to inspect the business premises of the licensee.

(10) Circulating untrue, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive advertising.

(11) Incompetence, gross negligence or other malpractice, or the departure from, or failure to conform to, the standards of acceptable and prevailing veterinary medical practice, in which case actual injury need not be established.

(12) Engaging in practices in connection with the practice of veterinary medicine which are in violation of the standards of professional conduct as defined herein or prescribed by the rules of the board.

(13) Revocation, suspension or other disciplinary action by another state of a license to practice veterinary medicine or veterinary technology in that state on grounds similar to those which in this State allow disciplinary proceedings, in which case the record of such revocation, suspension or other disciplinary action shall be conclusive evidence.

(14) Conviction of a violation of “The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act” 1 in which case a record of conviction shall be conclusive evidence.

(15) Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor crime related to the profession or crime of moral turpitude in the courts of this State or any other state, territory or country which, if committed in this State, would be deemed a felony or misdemeanor crime related to the profession or crime of moral turpitude and suspension or revocation of the license is in the best interest of the public health and the general safety and welfare of the public.

(16) Permitting or allowing another to use his or her license for the purpose of treating or offering to treat sick, injured or afflicted animals.

(17) Engaging in the practice of veterinary medicine under a false or assumed name or the impersonation of another practitioner of a like, similar or different name.

(18) Maintaining a professional or business connection with any other person who continues to violate any of the provisions of this act or rules of the board after ten days’ notice in writing by the board.

(19) Addiction to the habitual use of intoxicating liquors, narcotics or stimulants to such an extent as to incapacitate him or her from the performance of his or her professional obligations and duties.

(20) Professional incompetence.

(21) The wilful making of any false statement as to material matter in any oath or affidavit which is required by this act.

(22) Knowingly maintaining a professional connection or association with any person who is in violation of this act or regulation of the board or knowingly aiding, assisting, securing, advising, or having in the licensee’s employment any unlicensed person to practice veterinary medicine contrary to this act or regulations of the board.

(23) Failing to furnish a copy of a patient’s medical records or failing to provide a patient’s radiographs to another treating veterinarian, hospital or clinic upon the written request of an owner or owner’s agent, or failing to provide the owner or owner’s agent with a copy of the medical records within a reasonable period of time and upon proper request or waiver by the owner or owner’s agent, or failing to comply with any other law or regulation relating to medical records. The furnishing of a summary of a patient’s medical records shall be permissible only when a summary and not a copy of the records is requested.

(24) Failing to maintain required veterinary medical, surgical and/or diagnostic procedure logs and/or medical records[vii].

The board shall have authority to enter an order to discipline any person who, after proper hearing, has been found guilty by the board of a violation, of one or more provisions of this act or any rule or regulation of the board. The board, based upon the evidence and its finding of fact, may enter its final order which may include one of the following provisions:

(1) Suspend or limit the right to practice veterinary medicine.

(2) Revoke the license to practice veterinary medicine.

(3) Suspend the imposition of judgment and penalties.

(4) Impose judgment and penalties but suspend enforcement thereof and place the licensee or applicant for license on probation with the right to vacate the probationary order for noncompliance.

(5) Refuse to issue or renew a license.

(6) Withhold any license, either permanently or for a period of time, when the same has not been delivered.

(7) Administer a public reprimand.

(8) Require a licensee to submit to the care, counseling or treatment of a physician or a psychologist designated by the board.

(9) Restore a suspended license to practice veterinary medicine and impose any disciplinary or corrective measure which it might originally have imposed.

(10) Take such other action in relation to disciplining as the board in its discretion may deem proper.

The Pennsylvania law provides that disciplinary actions of the board shall be taken subject to the right of notice, hearing and adjudication and the right of appeal therefrom in accordance with Title 2 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (relating to administrative law and procedure). The board shall temporarily suspend a license under circumstances as determined by the board to be an immediate and clear danger to the public health or safety. The board shall issue an order to that effect without a hearing, but upon due notice to the licensee concerned at his or her last known address, which shall include a written statement of all allegations against the licensee. The provisions of subsection (a) shall not apply to temporary suspension. The board shall thereupon commence formal action to suspend, revoke or restrict the license of the person concerned as otherwise provided for in this act.

However, the licensee whose license has been temporarily suspended may be present at the preliminary hearing and may be represented by counsel, cross-examine witnesses, inspect physical evidence, call witnesses, offer evidence and testimony and make a record of the proceedings. If it is determined that there is not a prima facie case, the suspended license shall be immediately restored. The temporary suspension shall remain in effect until vacated by the board, but in no event longer than one hundred eighty days. The board shall require a person whose license or registration has been suspended or revoked to return the license or registration in such manner as the board directs. Failure to do so shall be a misdemeanor of the third degree.

The enforcement of the laws and rules regulating the practice of veterinary medicine is primarily vested in the board with the following powers and duties:

(1) To employ investigators and clerical assistants or any other necessary personnel.

(2) To inspect all animal hospitals or veterinary establishments, including mobile clinics, at least biennially to determine sanitary conditions, physical equipment and methods of operation.

(3) To inspect the licenses.

(4) To conduct investigations of alleged violations of this act.

Moreover, the board must have the authority to issue subpoenas upon application of an attorney responsible for representing disciplinary matters before the board for the purpose of investigating alleged violations of the disciplinary provisions administered by the board. The board shall have the power to subpoena witnesses, to administer oaths, to examine witnesses and to take such testimony or compel the production of such books, records, papers and documents as it may deem necessary or proper in, and pertinent to, any proceeding, investigation or hearing held or had by it.

Pursuant to the statutes, any person who violates any of the provisions of this act or the rules of the board adopted pursuant hereto shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500) or to imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both. The violations set forth herein whereby the board can discipline the holder of a license issued under this act, are specifically made a misdemeanor of the third degree and shall be prosecuted and upon conviction shall be punished according to this section. Any person who engages in the practice of veterinary medicine without the license required by this act or who performs the duties of an animal health technician without the certificate required by this act commits a misdemeanor of the third degree and shall, upon conviction, for a first offense, be sentenced to a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) or to imprisonment for not more than six months or both. A second offense shall be subject to a fine not to exceed two thousand dollars ($2,000) or imprisonment for a term of six months to one year or both.

In addition to any other civil remedy or criminal penalty provided for in this act, the board, by a vote of the majority of the maximum number of the authorized membership of the board as provided by law or by a vote of the majority of the duly qualified and confirmed membership or a minimum of four members, whichever is greater, may levy a civil penalty of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000) on any current licensee or certificate holder who violates any provision of this act or on any person who practices veterinary medicine or performs the duties of an animal health technician without being properly licensed or certified to do so under this act.

[i] 63 P.S. § 485.2.

[ii] 63 P.S. § 485.4.

[iii] 63 P.S. § 485.5.

[iv] 63 P.S. § 485.11.

[v] 63 P.S. § 485.17.

[vi] 63 P.S. § 485.19.

[vii] 63 P.S. § 485.21.

[viii] 63 P.S. § 485.24.

[ix] 63 P.S. § 485.25.

[x] 63 P.S. § 485.27.

[xi] 63 P.S. § 485.28


Inside Pennsylvania Laws on Regulation and Licensing of Veterinarians