Of The Texas State Board Of Veterinary Medical
Examiners Finally Comes To An End
On June 27, 2015 The Institute For Justice asked the US Supreme Court to review Dr. H's Freedom of Speech case. WC.. The AVMA and the Board's pursuit of Dr. H was a response to their fear of a changing world they could not understand or adapt to. He would like to thank each and every one of you that wrote letters to the Texas Board and the AVMA on his behalf. In April, 2017, veterinary telemedicine consultations were approved in Canada. (ref, rules) So until the AVMA catches up, you might need to consult a Canada-based veterinarian.
Letters to the Board from Dr. Hines' readers have not swayed them yet. (You can read some that they received in his behalf.. here.)
Dr. Hines Received This Order In The Mail From The Board Today- he refused to sign it. Instead, this was his response:
For over twelve years , pet owners, concerned about their pet's failing health have emailed Dr. Hines for information and support. Some paid him, most did not. But he answered every email and attempted to give each of them wise counsel and a sympathetic ear during their difficult times. Many became his lifelong friends. For now, he can no longer do that.
Dr. Hines is a Texas-licensed veterinarian in good standing and an "Honor Roll " member of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Providing you with a source of honest, thoughtful information over the Internet on treatment options for your sick pets has become his life’s work.
But now he needs your help. His online articles and availability have earned him the hostility of some short-sighted veterinarians. Those veterinarians are now attempting to disable his website through the use of the Texas State Board Of Veterinary Medical Examiners. You can help him prevent this by contacting the Board . Ask that your comments be recorded in his file and ask for a response to any questions you ask. Forward a copy of your email to Dr. Hines - and to the AVMA as well since the Board's administrator, Ms. Oria, now blames the AVMA. Let both of them know that your right to information and you right to make informed health care decisions for your pets is absolute and that neither of them have a mandate to interfere or meddle with private email conversations, what you can or cannot view on the internet, or whom you choose to correspond with. Tell them of the need and desirability of "distance" veterinarians you can lean on in times of trouble and doubt. Forward this page to your animal-loving friends.
The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners is not suggesting that any of the health care information Dr. Hines provides to you is wrong or inaccurate. They are stating that the simple fact that he corresponds with you over the Internet on pet health issues is a violation of Law and, ultimately, cause to revoke his license.
But Why Is The Texas Board Of Veterinary Medical Examiners Doing This ?
The electronic age has changed many norms in American society. In the 1950s, traditional small animal veterinarians were sole proprietors who enjoyed comfortable incomes, high prestige and high job satisfaction. But over the years since then, mega-corporations like Banfield and VCA have displaced many solo and small-group veterinary hospitals, internet and telephone pharmacies like 1-800-Petmeds have eroded animal hospital sales of pharmaceuticals and new vaccination guidelines have reduced your vet's vaccine income. The number of pet-owner visits to animal hospitals in the US began to significantly decrease in 2009, as did veterinary hospital incomes. This is occurring despite the number of pets in the USA increasing over the same period. You can read a full AVMA article on declining veterinary incomes here. A second, more in-depth study by Bayer Inc. found three causes for this decline: the poor economy, fragmentation of the marketplace and the availability of online/Internet information to pet owners. You can read that 2011 study here. It is a sad fact that many veterinarians find this powerful flow of information ("Dr. Google") threatening. (ref) Vet faced the same panic 100 years ago when draft horses, their main source of income, were replaced by tractors. (ref)
Why Did The Board Single Out Dr. Hines ?
Companies like JustAnswer, answer veterinary questions online just as Dr. Hines does. But JustAnswer puts a protective corporate buffer and anonymity between the Texas veterinarians providing the answer, the pet owner and the Board. Dr. Hines does not. The Texas Board is particularly aggressive (ref) (and sometimes tone deaf to the needs of pets (ref). Dr. Hines resides in Texas; JustAnswer is based in San Francisco – farther from their control. Dr. Hines’s gross revenues from his website activities are less than $2,500 per year. JustAnswer has estimated gross revenues in excess of $16,000,000. They claim to answer a veterinary question every 9 seconds. It may be tempting for the Board to take out their justifiable frustration at sliding veterinary incomes against a target that does not have the financial resources to fight back.
The History And Power of Veterinary Boards
Guilds have existed since antiquity. America was rather late to the game. It was not until the late 1700s that Richard Peters, a Philadelphia veterinarian, proposed that veterinarians band together for a communal common interest. Every entity in America (57) now has one. Their policies generally follow the guidelines of the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) and the AVMA’s model practice act .There is great variation in how rules are interpreted and enforced but, like any effective union, it is the welfare and livelihood of their members, that govern policy decisions.
Is The Texas Board Alone In Trying to Silence Dr. Hines ?
No. According to the AVMA's president, Douglas Aspros, the American Veterinary Medical Association fully supports the action of the Texas Veterinary Board. (ref) (you might want to remind them that their supposed goal is "the relief of animal suffering" - not the maximization of profits for a select group of chosen veterinarians and corporations. On July 19, 2013 the AVMA’s house of delegates passed a resolution opposing any form of “remote consulting” (via the internet, etc) between a distant veterinarian and a pet owner . But the AVMA conveniently agreed that it was OK, provided the pet owner first paid a local veterinarian for the privilege, by establish a “veterinary-client-patient” relationship (VCPR) with the local vet and then having the local vet "chaperone" the contact between the pet owner and the online veterinarian. The only delegates not to go along with this charade were those from Hawaii and Alaska. (ref)
The Basic Questions
Do Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Association and Right to Privacy supercede State regulatory ability?
Can Dr. Hines be prevented from communicating electronically with the Public?
Can his communications be censored?
Are his personal emails open to outside scrutiny and governmental inspection?
Does anonymity of contact between the public and a veterinarian or third-party participation as found on the Internet today, shield a veterinarian from regulatory control? What about services like this or this ? Can rules be enforced unequally ? Is singling out the small over the large and powerful true to the entrepreneurial spirit of Texas ?
Does proposed control of Dr. Hines’ personal inclinations to help pet owners and animals in ways he sees fit really fit the stated mandate of the TBVME ? That mandate is “ to protect the public by ensuring that persons entering the profession meet minimum academic and examination requirements” ?
Does their mission to “ensure the best possible quality of veterinary services for the people of Texas” allow them to censor Dr. Hines’ correspondent with animal owners throughout the entire World?
Can a disabled veterinarian be prevented from participating in his chosen profession in ways that accommodate his disabilities ?
If a veterinarian writes negative articles on pocketbook issues such as surgical procedures, medications, vaccination frequency , early age neutering, healthy diet options, or vaccine reactions should that veterinarian be subject to retaliation through licensure boards ?
Do we really want an arm of Texas Government muzzling what they consider to be a "dissident" veterinarian, and using methods similar to the house arrests practiced in places like North Korea and Iran?
Ms. Oria, the current head of the Texas Veterinary Board, has stated that Dr. Hines is "banned from offering an online opinion on anything that has to do with animals". What does it say about the integrity of a state government that would display, on its own website, Dr. Hines' phone number and email address as a suggested source of information on animal health and welfare only to punish him for responding ? (ref)
Is the AVMA and Texas Board's underlying motivation really the interest of your pet's health or is it just a clever ruse used to enforce the status quo ? Is it even in the interest of progressive, veterinarians of the future ? Your physician, lives in the 21st Century, why not your pet's veterinarian ? (ref)
TEXAS BOARD OF
|VETERINARY MEDICAL EXAMINERS|
Re: Case Number 12-167
Dear Dr. Hines,
The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners has received a complaint alleging you have and are currently operating an internet consultation service which provides medical recommendations to clients. This practice may constitute the practice of veterinary medicine in violation of the Veterinary Licensing Act 801.351 – Existence of a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship.
The current investigation is to determine if there are any violations of the Veterinary Licensing Act and/or Rules Pertaining to the Practice of Veterinary Medicine. Please provide the Board with any information and/or documents you believe are pertinent for consideration in reference to this matter.
If you believe your actions do not violate the Veterinary Licensing Act, please respond in detail defending your position. Should you decide to voluntarily cease and desist the practices in question, please provide the Board with your response for review.
If you have questions, you may contact me directly at (512) 305-7568
September 1, 2012
To: Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners
But I feel compelled to comment that your 8/17/12 summons used some highly pejorative terms in an attempt to smear my reputation as a veterinarian. Over the last few months, Ms. Moriarty has sent me several proposed confessions to sign. I have refused. But I have a counter-proposal I would like to offer to you :
If you can point to a single instance in my 46-year career as a veterinarian where I did not conduct myself with "Honesty", "Integrity" "Fair Dealing " or where I "promised" cures - all of which you have alleged - I will immediately and permanently surrender my Texas Veterinary License, take down the 2ndchance website and pay your $1,000 fine. If, however, you cannot point to a single instance where I have committed the offenses you have accused me of, then you agree to refocus your activities on protecting the health and welfare of Texas pets and stop harassing me and the pet owners who depend on me.