The Tennessee laws on regulation and licensing of veterinarians are found in Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 63-12-101 through 63-12-144. Pursuant to the statutes, there is created the board of veterinary medical examiners, referred to as the “board” in this chapter. The board must be composed of five (5) licensed doctors of veterinary medicine, who must be graduates of an approved school of veterinary medicine and of good standing in their profession, and who have had not less than five (5) years’ actual experience in the practice of veterinary medicine; one (1) licensed veterinary technician who must be a graduate of an approved veterinary technology program, is of good standing in the profession, and who has had not less than five (5) years’ actual experience as a licensed veterinary technician; and one (1) member of the general public as provided by § 63-1-124.
Moreover, the members of the board must be appointed by the governor for a term of five (5) years. Each member so appointed must serve until the expiration of the particular five-year term to which the member is appointed, and thereafter until the member’s successor has been appointed by the governor. The governor may suspend any member of the board for malfeasance, misfeasance, gross inefficiency or misconduct or upon any of the constitutional grounds upon which officers may be suspended by the governor. The state veterinarian, as appointed by the commissioner of agriculture, must serve as a nonvoting, ex officio member of the board of veterinary medical examiners[i].
Powers of Board
Pursuant to the statutes, the board is authorized to:
(1) Adopt reasonable rules governing the practice of veterinary medicine as are necessary to enable it to carry out and make effective the purpose and intent of this chapter. Such rules must be adopted pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, compiled in title 4, chapter 5;
(2) Adopt rules of professional conduct appropriate to establish and maintain a high standard of integrity, skills and practice in the profession of veterinary medicine. In prescribing such rules of professional conduct, the board may be guided by the principles of veterinary medical ethics adopted by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association;
(3) Have its rules printed and distributed to all licensed doctors of veterinary medicine;
(4) Bring proceedings in courts for the enforcement of this chapter or any rules made pursuant thereto;
(5) Hold at least one (1) regular meeting each year at such time and place as fixed by the board. Other meetings may be held upon the call of the president and secretary. The regular meetings will be for the purpose of conducting examinations of applications for license to practice veterinary medicine, the election of officers and to consider any other business that may properly come before the board;
(6) Pass upon the qualifications of applicants for a license to practice veterinary medicine in this state;
(7) Prescribe the subjects, character, manner, time and place of holding examinations and the filing of applications for examinations and to conduct the examinations;
(8) Issue temporary permits or licenses, which shall be signed by the secretary, to duly qualified applicants;
(9) Provide for, regulate and require all persons licensed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter to renew their license annually, require as a condition precedent to such annual renewal the payment of the annual renewal fee as provided in § 63-12-121, issue annual renewal licenses to such persons and suspend or revoke the license of such persons who fail, refuse or neglect to renew same or pay such fees;
(10) Conduct investigations and hearings upon complaints calling for discipline of a licensee or applicant for license or certificate or permit holder or applicant for a certificate or a permit;
(11) Take testimony on any matter under its jurisdiction, and any member thereof may administer oaths;
(12) Issue summonses and subpoenas, including subpoenas duces tecum, which shall be signed by either the president or the secretary-treasurer of the board, for any witness in connection with any matter within the jurisdiction of the board;
(13) Adopt such forms as it may deem necessary;
(14) Establish continuing educational requirements; and
(15) Issue such certificates as are authorized under this chapter[ii].
Licensing of Veterinarians
The statutes provide that any person wishing to practice veterinary medicine in this state shall obtain a license from the board. It is unlawful for such person to practice veterinary medicine as defined in § 63-12-103 unless the person obtains a license; and if the person so practices, the person shall be considered to have violated the provisions of this chapter. The board may admit to examination any applicant who submits satisfactory evidence that the applicant:
(1) Is a graduate of a school or college of veterinary medicine approved by the board;
(2) Is in good physical and mental health;
(3) Is of good moral character;
(4) Is a citizen of the United States or Canada, or legally entitled to live within the United States;
(5) Subscribes to and will uphold the principles incorporated in the Constitution of the United States; and
(6) Has paid the required fee[iii].
Furthermore, the board may issue a temporary license to practice veterinary medicine, to be used only under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian, upon payment of a fee as set by the board. During the validity of the temporary license, the applicant must be under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian. New graduates applying for such temporary license must provide the name and address of practice of the supervising veterinarian and any other requirements specified by the board in rules and regulations; or a veterinarian duly licensed according to the laws of another state and who has made application for permanent licensure in Tennessee. A temporary license issued under the provisions of this section must be valid until the board rules on the applicant’s request. If the board’s decision is to issue a license without examination, the temporary license expires on receipt of the permanent license. If the board’s decision is for examination, then the law applies as stated in subdivision (1). The holder of a temporary license issued under this section must practice under the direct supervision of a veterinarian licensed in Tennessee. The temporary license is valid until the candidate obtains the ECFVG or equivalent certification; provided, that a temporary license issued pursuant to this section must not be valid for more than a maximum of eighteen (18) months from the date the temporary license is issued[iv].
Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-12-116, if the applicant for examination be found worthy and competent by the board, it must issue to the applicant a certificate of license to practice veterinary medicine in this state. Each licensee must be entitled to exercise all the rights and privileges of a doctor of veterinary medicine. Every person practicing veterinary medicine must be governed by the laws of this state and the rules adopted by the board. Any person who practices or attempts to practice veterinary medicine in Tennessee and makes a charge for the practice, without having complied with the provisions of this chapter, commits a Class B misdemeanor for each instance of such practice[v].
Moreover, all persons who are now or may hereafter be licensed to practice veterinary medicine in this state must renew such license as follows:
(1) Each year, the secretary-treasurer of the board shall mail an application for renewal of license to every person holding a valid current license;
(2) The applicant shall fill in the application and return it to the secretary-treasurer of the board;
(3) The applicant shall furnish the board such evidence as it may require of having complied with provisions pursuant to this chapter relating to the annual educational program;
(4) The annual renewal fee shall be set by the board and shall be paid at the time the application for renewal of license is filed;
(5) If any holder of a license fails to renew the license within sixty (60) days after registration becomes due, as provided in this section, the license or certificate of such person shall be automatically revoked at the expiration of the sixty (60) days after the registration was required, without further notice or hearing unless requested;
(6) However, during any war or national emergency, the holder of a license on active duty with the armed services shall not be required to renew the license until January 1 of the year following the date of the holder’s release from such active duty; and
(7) The acceptance of any fee by the board shall not in any way affect the board’s powers or duties with respect to the revocation, suspension or refusal to grant any license.
The statutes further provide that any person licensed to practice veterinary medicine, who has retired or may hereafter retire from such practice in this state shall not be made to register as required by this chapter if such person shall file with this board an affidavit on a form to be furnished by the board, which affidavit shall state the date on which such person retired from such practice and such other facts as tend to verify such retirement as the board shall deem necessary. If such person thereafter reengages in the practice of veterinary medicine in this state, such person shall apply for registration with the board as provided by this chapter and shall meet continuing education requirements as set by the board.
The Tennessee statutes provide that notwithstanding any provision of this chapter to the contrary, the division, with the approval of the commissioner, must establish a system of license renewals at alternative intervals that will allow for the distribution of the license workload as uniformly as is practicable throughout the calendar year. Licenses issued under the alternative method are valid for twenty-four (24) months, and must expire on the last day of the last month of the license period. However, during a transition period, or at any time thereafter when the board must determine that the volume of work for any given interval is unduly burdensome or costly, either the licenses or renewals, or both of them, may be issued for terms of not less than six (6) months nor more than eighteen (18) months. The fee imposed for any license under the alternative interval method for a period of other than twenty-four (24) months must be proportionate to the annual fee and modified in no other manner, except that the proportional fee must be rounded off to the nearest quarter of a dollar (25cent(s)). No renewal application will be accepted after the last day of the month following the license expiration date under the alternative method authorized in this subsection (d)[vi].
Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-12-122, the board, by an affirmative vote of three (3), at any time after suspension or revocation of a license for good and sufficient cause, may reissue a license to the person affected, conferring upon the person all the rights and privileges pertaining to the practice of veterinary medicine. Any person to whom such license may be reissued must pay the same fee as upon the issuance of the original license. The board, pursuant to the procedure prescribed in this section, has the power to deny, suspend or revoke any license or to otherwise discipline an applicant or licensee who is found guilty by the board of one (1) or more of the following:
(1) Willful or repeated violation of any provisions of this chapter or any rules of the board;
(2) Fraud or deceit in procuring or attempting to procure a license to practice veterinary medicine, or presenting to the board dishonest or fraudulent evidence of qualification or 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 in any of its branches;
(5) Willfully making any misrepresentation in the inspection of food for human consumption;
(6) Fraudulently issuing or using any health certificate, vaccination certificate, inspection certificate, test chart or other blank form used in the practice of veterinary medicine to 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 tuberculin, 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 any legal representative of the board to inspect the business premises of the licensee during regular business hours;
(10) Circulating knowingly untrue, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive advertising;
(11) Gross malpractice or a pattern of continued or repeated malpractice, ignorance, negligence or incompetence in the course of veterinary medical practice;
(12) Unprofessional or unethical conduct or engaging in practices in connection with the practice of veterinary medicine that are in violation of the standards of professional conduct as defined in this section or prescribed by the rules of the board;
(13) Conduct reflecting unfavorably upon the profession of veterinary medicine;
(14) The willful making of any false statement as to a material matter in any oath or affidavit that is required by this chapter;
(15) Revocation by another state of a license to practice veterinary medicine in that state, in which case the record of such revocation shall be conclusive evidence;
(16) Conviction on a charge of cruelty to animals;
(17) Conviction of a felony under federal or state law involving use, misuse, possession or sale of any controlled substance or controlled substance analogue;
(18) Conviction of a felony in the courts of this state, or of any other state, territory or country that, if committed in this state, would be a felony;
(19) Permitting or allowing another to use the licensee’s license for the purpose of treating or offering to treat sick, injured or affected animals;
(20) 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;
(21) Has been guilty of employing or permitting any person who does not hold a license to practice veterinary medicine in this state to perform work that, under this chapter, can lawfully be done only by persons holding such license and permitted by law to practice veterinary medicine in this state. It must be conclusively presumed that any unlicensed person, if employed by a licensed person, was employed for such purpose if the unlicensed person has attended any school of veterinary medicine or surgery, accredited or otherwise, for a period of over thirty (30) days;
(22) Addiction to the habitual use of intoxicating liquors, narcotics or other stimulants to such an extent as to incapacitate the applicant or licensee from the performance of the applicant’s or the licensee’s professional obligations and duties;
(23) Professional incompetence;
(24) Having been adjudged mentally incompetent by a court of competent jurisdiction and the disabilities of such person not having been restored, or the voluntary commitment or admission to a state hospital or other mental institution. The record of adjudication, judgment, order or voluntary commitment is conclusive evidence of such mental illness, and upon receipt of a certified copy of any such adjudication, judgment, order or record of voluntary commitment by the board, it may suspend the license of the person so adjudicated or committed;
(25) Failure to report, as required by law, or making false report of, any contagious or infectious disease as referred to under the U.S.D.A. standards for accreditation of veterinarians in Tennessee and other states;
(26) Has been found guilty of using biologicals or other drugs that have deteriorated or after the expiration date of that particular lot or serial number;
(27) Has been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude; or
(28) Dispensing, prescribing, or otherwise distributing any controlled substance or any other drug not in the course of the accepted practice of veterinary medicine.
The board may, on its own motion, cause to be investigated any report indicating that a veterinarian is or may be in violation of the provisions of this chapter. Any person who in good faith must report to the board any information that a veterinarian is or may be in violation of any provisions of this chapter must not be subject to suit for civil damages as a result thereof[vii].
Discipline of Veterinarians
The board has the authority to enter an order to discipline any person, corporation or other similar organization, public or private, for-profit or not-for-profit, who or which, after proper hearing, has been found guilty by the board of a violation of one (1) or more provisions of this chapter or any rule of the board. The board, based upon the evidence and its findings of fact, may enter its final order, which may include one (1) or more of the following provisions:
(1) Suspend or limit the right to practice veterinary medicine in this state;
(2) Suspend or limit the right to hold a certificate or premises permit in this state;
(3) Revoke the license to practice veterinary medicine. Following revocation of such license, the licensee may be re-licensed at the discretion of the board with or without examination;
(4) Impose judgment and penalties, but suspend enforcement thereof and place the licensee or license applicant, certificate holder or certificate applicant, premises permit holder or premises permit applicant on probation;
(5) Suspend the imposition of judgment and penalties;
(6) Refuse to issue a new license, certificate, or premises permit;
(7) Withhold any license, certificate or premises permit, either permanently or for a period of time, when the same, has not been delivered;
(8) Suspend or limit the right to own or operate a veterinary facility in this state; or
(9) Take such other action in relation to discipline as the board in its discretion may deem proper.
Immediately upon entry of the final order by the board, a copy thereof shall be delivered to the respondent and the respondent’s counsel, if any, either personally or by registered or certified mail. The board must have the discretion to grant a rehearing, if applied for within thirty (30) days. However, for good cause the time may be extended. Judicial review of orders of the board may be had by writ of certiorari or as otherwise provided by the laws of this state[viii].
Pursuant to the Tennessee law, the board must examine and license veterinary technicians and has the same authority in the regulation, examination and qualification of licensed veterinary technicians as it has under the provisions of this chapter for the practice of veterinary medicine and veterinarians. Any licensed veterinarian may assign to a licensed veterinary technician regularly employed by the veterinarian any task or procedure to be performed for which the veterinarian exercises responsible supervision and full responsibility except those procedures requiring professional judgment or skill as prescribed by board rule. The fees provided in this chapter pertaining to applications, licensing and renewal for veterinarians also apply to licensed veterinary technicians. It is a Class B misdemeanor for any person to use in connection with the person’s name any designation intending to imply that the person is a veterinary technician or a licensed veterinary technician unless the person meets the requirements contained in this chapter. The board may, on its own motion, cause to be investigated any report indicating that a licensed veterinary technician is or may be in violation of the provisions of this chapter. Any person who in good faith reports to the board any information that a licensed veterinary technician is or may be in violation of any provisions of this chapter is not subject to suit for civil damages as a result thereof[ix]. Any person who practices or attempts to practice veterinary medicine in this state and makes a charge for the practice, without having complied with the provisions of this chapter, commits a Class B misdemeanor for each instance of such practice[x].
Euthanasia of Animals
In Tennessee, the board of veterinary medical examiners, upon submission of a complete application and payment of a fee established by the board, shall issue to any animal control agency that it determines to be qualified a certificate authorizing the agency to apply to the federal drug enforcement agency, including any successor entity, for a restricted controlled substance registration certificate for the purchase, possession and use of sodium pentobarbital or other drugs as authorized by the board for administration by a certified animal euthanasia technician to euthanize injured, sick or abandoned animals. It is a Class B misdemeanor for any person or entity to use or imply that such person or entity has been granted a certificate as a certified animal control agency unless a certificate has been granted under the provisions of this title.
Pursuant to Tennessee law, Euthanasia of animals in a certified animal control agency may only be performed by a licensed veterinarian, including a licensed veterinary technician employed by and functioning under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian or a certified animal euthanasia technician as provided by law. A certified animal control agency that employs a certified animal euthanasia technician may purchase, possess and administer sodium pentobarbital or such other drug that the board may approve for the euthanasia of animals.[xi].
[i] Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-12-104.
[ii] Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-12-106.
[iii] Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-12-112.
[iv] Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-12-113.
[v] Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-12-119.
[vi] Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-12-121.
[vii] Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-12-124.
[viii] Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-12-128.
[ix] Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-12-135.
[x] Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-12-119.
[xi] Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-12-141.