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Rhode Island Laws on Regulation and Licensing of Veterinarians

Pursuant to the “Rhode Island Veterinary Practice Act,” within the division of professional regulation of the department of health, there must be a board of veterinary medicine to assist the division in regulating the practice of veterinary medicine administered by the director of the department[i].

The statute provides that five (5) members of the board must:

(1) Be residents of this state and licensed to practice within this state for at least five (5) years prior to appointment.

(2) Be actively engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine for at least five (5) of the seven (7) years immediately preceding their appointment[ii].

Powers and Duties of the Board

The board is authorized to recommend to the department and director of health for his or her approval, the adoption, and from time to time, the revision, of any rules and regulations not inconsistent with law that are necessary to enable the department to carry into effect the provisions of this chapter, including, but not limited to, regulations establishing continuing professional education requirements for veterinarians licensed under this chapter.  The board must recommend for licensure only duly qualified applicants.  The board must review applicants at least twice a year. It must recommend the tests taken by applicants for licensure.  The department must adopt all policies to be followed in the examination, licensure, and renewal of license of duly qualified applicants and has full authority to accept or reject the recommendations of the board.

Moreover, the department is responsible for granting all licenses to practice veterinary medicine.  The department must conduct hearings upon charges calling for the discipline of licensees or revocation of licenses.  The department has the power to issue subpoenas and compel the attendance of witnesses and administer oaths to persons giving testimony at hearings.  The department must cause the prosecution of all persons violating this chapter.  The department must keep a record of all its proceedings. The department may delegate to any other persons that are necessary to carry on the work of the department[iii].

Practice of Veterinary Medicine

In Rhode Island, any person must be regarded as practicing veterinary medicine, surgery and dentistry within the meaning of this chapter who, either directly or indirectly, when he or she does any of the following:

(1) Represents himself or herself as engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine, veterinary surgery, or veterinary dentistry in any of its branches.

(2) Diagnoses, prognoses, 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.

(3) Cuts any tissue, muscle, organ, or structure of any animal for the purposes described in subdivision (2) of this subsection or purpose or for the purpose of altering the natural condition of any animal or for any other purpose, cause or reason.

However, the term “practicing veterinary medicine” does not include:

(1) The calling into the state for consultation of duly licensed or registered veterinarians of any other state as to any case under treatment by a veterinarian registered under the provisions of this chapter.

(2) The experimentation or research of a registered physician, dentist or osteopath.

(3) The experimentation and research activities conducted at any hospital, laboratory, or educational institution provided the activities have been approved and authorized by the division within the period of one year prior to the commencement of each separate project or activity or are conducted under the general supervision and control of a registered veterinarian, physician, dentist, or osteopath.

(4) The gratuitous giving of aid or relief to an animal in any accident or emergency; provided, the person giving the aid or relief does not represent himself or herself as a registered veterinarian.

(5) The nursing care to animals in the establishment or facilities of a registered veterinarian under his or her general supervision, direction and control by the employees of the veterinarian or the activities of a person assisting a veterinarian during the course of any procedure or treatment.

(6) A person who is a regular student in a legally chartered college or school of veterinary medicine while in the performance of the duties and activities assigned by his or her instructors and provided there is a licensed veterinarian to supervise those acts.

(7) A person who is a member of the armed forces of the United States or who is an employee or official of the United States department of agriculture, public health service, or other federal agency or of the state, who while so commissioned or employed, performs official duties.

(8) A person who conducts routine vaccinations, pullorum testing and typhoid testing of poultry and other poultry disease control activity under the supervision of an official state or federal agency or department of agriculture.

Penalty for Unauthorized Practice of Veterinary Medicine

Pursuant to the Rhode Island law, any person who is not lawfully authorized to practice veterinary medicine and is not registered or exempt from registration, as defined in this chapter:

  • practices or attempts to practice veterinary medicine or who holds himself or herself out to the public as a practitioner of veterinary medicine, surgery or dentistry, whether by signs, words, advertisements, listings in directories, the use of the title “doctor” or any abbreviation of that word or any title including “V.S.” or by the use of any other means implying a practitioner of veterinary medicine or any of its branches;
  • fraudulently uses any posted degree, diploma, or certificate implying a practitioner of veterinary medicine or any of its branches, or who opens an office or maintains an establishment or facilities for the purpose of or with the intention of practicing veterinary medicine;

is guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, must be fined not exceeding one thousand dollars ($ 1,000), or be imprisoned not exceeding three (3) years and upon a subsequent conviction must be fined not exceeding five thousand dollars ($ 5,000), nor be imprisoned not exceeding five (5) years, or be both fined and imprisoned[v].

Prosecution of Violations

Complaints for the violation of the provisions of this chapter may be made by the director of the department of health, the administrator of the division of professional regulation, the executive director or authorized agent of the state board of veterinarians or any person including a member of the board to the police of the city or town in which the violation occurred for prosecution. If the complaint is made by a member of the board, division, or by any employee or official of the state designated in this chapter, that person is exempt from giving surety for costs in the complaint.

Licensing of Veterinarians

The statute further provides that any applicant for licensure must submit to the department written evidence on forms furnished by the department verified by oath that the applicant meets all of the following requirements:

(1) Is a graduate of a school or college of veterinary medicine recognized and accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association and by the department or certification by the Educational Council for Foreign Veterinary Graduates;

(2) Pays an application fee of forty dollars ($ 40.00) at the time of submitting the application, which, in no case is returned to the applicant;

(3) Is of good moral character, evidenced in the manner prescribed by the department; and

(4) Complies with any other qualifications that the department prescribes by regulation; and

(5) Comply with the continuing education requirements adopted by the department.[vii]

R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-25-11 provides that the applicant is required to pass, with a grade determined by the division, an examination approved by the division; upon payment of an examination fee as set forth in § 23-1-54 every candidate who passes that examination, and in the opinion of the division meets the qualifications of § 5-25-10, shall, upon payment of an initial license fee, which shall be equal to the biennial license renewal fee in effect, be issued a license to practice veterinary medicine. Veterinarians licensed under the provisions of this chapter on August 31, 1985 shall continue to be licensed. Without Examination by Endorsement. A license to practice veterinary medicine may be issued without examination to an applicant who has been duly licensed by examination as a veterinarian under the laws of another state or territory or District of Columbia, if, in the opinion of the division, the applicant meets the qualifications required of veterinarians in this state, as further defined in rules and regulations.

Furthermore, the certificate of every person licensed as a veterinarian under the provisions of this chapter expires on the first day of May of each even numbered year. On or before the first day of March of each two (2) year period, the department shall mail an application for renewal of license to every person to whom a license has been issued or renewed during the current licensure period. Every person so licensed who desires to renew his or her license shall file with the department a renewal application duly executed together with a renewal fee as set forth in § 23-1-54 on or before the thirty-first day of March of each even numbered year.  Upon receipt of an application, and payment of the renewal fee, the department shall grant a renewal license effective the second day of May, and expiring on the first day of May of the next even numbered year. Any person who allows his or her license to lapse by failing to renew it on or before the thirty-first day of March of the next even numbered year, as provided in subsection (a), may be reinstated by the department on payment of the current renewal fee plus an additional fee as set forth in § 23-1-54.

Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-25-12, ny person using the title “veterinarian” during the time that his or her license has lapsed is subject to the penalties provided for violations of this chapter. veterinarian licensed to practice veterinary medicine within the state shall, in connection with renewal of licensure, provide satisfactory evidence to the department that in the preceding two-year period the veterinarian has completed a prescribed course of continuing professional education established by an appropriate professional veterinary medicine association and approved by rule or regulation of the department. The department may extend for only one six (6) month period, these education requirements if the department is satisfied that the applicant has suffered hardship which prevented meeting the educational requirement.

Moreover, the division has the power to deny, revoke or suspend any license issued under this chapter or otherwise discipline a licensee upon proof of the following:

(1) Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; conviction of a felony; and conviction of a crime arising out of the practice of veterinary medicine;

(2) Addiction to narcotics, habitual drunkenness, or rendering professional services to a patient while the veterinarian is intoxicated or incapacitated by the use of drugs;

(3) Knowingly placing the health of a client at serious risk without maintaining proper precautions;

(4) Fraud or misrepresentation in any phase of procuring or renewing a license;

(5) Unprofessional conduct, which includes the matters set forth in the section or other matters as further defined in regulations of the division;

(6) Advertising designed to mislead the public;

(7) Representing certain procedures are performed with greater authority or expertise;

(8) Fraud or misrepresentation of treatment procedures or statements regarding the ability to treat;

(9) Fee splitting or kickbacks of any kind, except where services are provided jointly;

(10) Failure to maintain acceptable sanitation standards;

(11) Malpractice, gross negligence, or wanton disregard of accepted professional standards;

(12) Adjudication of mental incompetence;

(13) Lack of fitness to practice by reason of mental or physical impairment or otherwise; or

(14) Any other grounds to deny, revoke or suspend a license as provided for in the rules and regulations[viii].

Discipline of Veterinarians

When a written allegation is filed with the division charging a person with having been guilty of any of the actions specified in § 5-25-14, the division of professional regulation shall immediately investigate those charges. In the event the investigation reveals reasonable grounds for believing that the applicant or veterinarian is guilty of the charges, upon the recommendation of the division or the administrator, the director shall fix a time and place for hearing the charges, and shall cause a copy of the charges together with a notice of the time and the place fixed for the hearing to be served personally upon the accused at least twenty (20) days prior to the time fixed for the hearing. When personal service cannot be effected and that fact is certified, by oath, by any person duly authorized to make service, the division shall cause to be published once in each of two (2) successive weeks, a notice of the hearing in a newspaper published in the county where the accused last resided according to the records of the division and shall mail a copy of the charges and of the notice to the accused at his or her last known address. When publication of notice is necessary, the date of the hearing shall not be less than twenty (20) days after the last date of publication of the notice. At the hearing, the accused shall have the right to appear personally or by counsel or both, to produce witnesses and evidence on his or her behalf, to cross-examine witnesses and to have subpoenas issued by the administrator of the division of professional regulation. The attendance of witnesses and the production of books, documents, and papers at the hearing may be compelled by subpoenas issued by the administrator, which shall be served in accordance with law. At the hearing, the administrator shall administer oaths as are necessary for the proper conduct of the hearing. The division shall not be bound by the strict rules of procedure or by the laws of evidence in the conduct of its proceedings, but the determination shall be based upon sufficient legal evidence to sustain it. If the accused is found guilty of the charges, the division may refuse to issue a registration to the applicant or may revoke or suspend their license or otherwise discipline that person. Upon the revocation or suspension of any license, the holder of the license shall surrender the license to the administrator of the division who shall strike the name of the holder from the register.

[i] R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-25-1.

[ii] R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-25-4.

[iii] R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-25-6.

[iv] R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-25-7.

[v] R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-25-8.

[vi] R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-25-9.

[vii] R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-25-10.

[viii] R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-25-14.

[ix] R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-25-15.

Inside Rhode Island Laws on Regulation and Licensing of Veterinarians