Forced to leave private veterinary practice 12 years ago, Ron Hines turned to the Internet to publish articles on animal health and soon began answering specific questions from animal owners. As a result, the Brownsville, Texas, veterinarian was recently found to be in violation of the state’s veterinary practice act due to the “Ask A Vet” component of his website.
The editors of DVM360 magazine recently reported that the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners suspended his license for a year and executed a disciplinary order to require Hines to cease his Internet veterinary correspondence. While the vet board calls Hines’ Internet actions equivalent to practicing veterinary medicine, the Institute of Justice, which has taken up the legal aspects of his case, contends the vet’s actions constitutes free speech since Hines says he’s simply offering friendly advice.
The board indicated it had no problem with the sharing of general veterinary knowledge. However, the state board says Hines crossed the line into the practice of veterinary medicine when he addressed the medical inquiries of a specific patient and breaks the law in doing so without a physical examination.