Massachusetts law about veterinary practice

Laws, regulations, cases and web sources on veterinary practice law.

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Massachusetts laws

MGL c.13, §§ 26-28 Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine

MGL c.112, §§ 54-60 Licensing provisions for registration of veterinarians; veterinary board; veterinary records and disciplinary actions for impaired or incompetent practitioners

MGL c.140, § 151B Emergency treatment of dogs or cats injured on ways; payment to veterinarians

MGL c.272, § 80-1/2 Devocalization of dogs and cats

St.2014, c.293 An act protecting animal welfare and safety (PAWS (Protect Animal Welfare and Safety) Act), "Puppy Doe" Law; increases penalties for animal abuse, and requires veterinarians to report suspected abuse

St.2018, c.219 An act to protect animal welfare and safety in cities and towns (PAWS II Act)
The act
 builds upon changes to the state’s animal cruelty laws made with passage of the PAWS (Protect Animal Welfare and Safety) Act in 2014. Key provisions of the act: help ensure abuse is reported; ensure efficient enforcement of animal control laws; prohibit the drowning of animals – wild and domestic; update the animal fighting law to prevent the automatic killing of animal fighting victims; add animal crimes to the list of offenses that serve as the basis for a request for a determination of detention and/or release upon conditions; ensure that landlords check vacant properties for the presence of abandoned animals and clarify the law relating to when animals are abandoned; animal sexual abuse; dogs and insurance and who/what entities can be charged with certain types of animal cruelty.    

Massachusetts regulations

256 CMR Rules and regulations governing veterinarians

Federal laws

P.L. 113-143 Veterinary medicine mobility act of 2014
Allows a veterinarian to transport and dispense controlled substances in the usual course of veterinary practice outside of the registered location.

Selected cases

Kippenberger v. Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine, 448 Mass. 1035 (2007) 
"Substantial evidence supports the board's decision that Kippenberger's treatment of each of the dogs failed to meet the acceptable standard of veterinary care. Kippenberger's treatment ranged from performing unnecessary surgery to misdiagnoses to neglect. Kippenberger's assertions in his defense are either unsupported by the record or insubstantial. Even if, for example, the board incorrectly stated that Kippenberger had failed to offer any defense of his care for one of the dogs, substantial evidence still supports the final assessment that Kippenberger's care of that dog was substandard."

Fitzgerald v. Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine, 399 Mass. 901 (1987)
"In proceedings before a hearing officer arising out of a matter referred to her by the Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine concerning a veterinarian's alleged improper treatment of an injured dog, the hearing officer, in construing and applying the terms "malpractice," "gross misconduct," and "conduct reflecting unfavorably on the profession of veterinary medicine," as those terms are used in G. L. c. 112, Sections 59 and 61, correctly looked to the general standards of ethics and practice which are adhered to in the profession of veterinary medicine."

Web sources

Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine
Find out about fees and licensing renewals. Also has an FAQ about the Board.

Detailed discussion of veterinary malpractice, David S. Favre, 2002.
"This article provides a short history of the development of veterinary malpractice as a cause of action and also explores the elements of a malpractice suit."

File a complaint against a licensed veterinarian
Consumers have the right to file a complaint with the Mass. Division of Professional Licensure if they feel as though a veterinarian has violated the standards of professional conduct.

Frequently asked questions, Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association.
Questions and answers on the following topics: General Practice; Continuing Education; Prescriptions; Controlled Substances; Rabies; Microchips; Mobile and Relief Veterinarians; Complementary Medicine and Compounding Medication.

Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association 
"For the advancement and protection of the veterinary medical profession in Massachusetts by promoting the betterment of animal health and well-being, enhancing the human-animal bond, safeguarding public health, supporting legislative advocacy and providing excellence in continuing education."

Principles of veterinary medical ethics of the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association)
All veterinarians are expected to adhere to a progressive code of ethical conduct known as the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics (PVME).”  

Role of the veterinarian: establishing protocols to identify and report suspected animal cruelty in Massachusetts 
“The purpose of this manual is to provide explanations of law and supporting materials so, as a veterinarian, you can develop protocols for your clinic or practice which can guide your actions should you or others face a suspected or known case of animal neglect, cruelty, or abuse.”

The future of veterinary malpractice liability in the care of companion animals, by Christopher Green, 10 Animal L. 163 (2004).
"Investigates the factual bases of arguments from the veterinary community and of those that support increasing the malpractice liability of veterinarians."

Veterinary malpractice,
Though not specific to Massachusetts, provides a great summary of veterinary malpractice and what is required to support a suit.

Print sources

Animal law, by David S. Favre, Aspen, 2008.
Animal ownership -- Veterinarian malpractice -- Damages for harm to pets -- State regulation of ownership -- Anti-cruelty laws : history and intentional acts -- Anti-cruelty laws : duty to provide care -- Agricultural animals -- Access to courts : standing and legal injury -- The Animal Welfare Act -- Animal rights : the jurisprudence -- Animal rights : the social movement.

Animal law in a nutshell, 3rd ed., West Academic Publishing, 2021. See index, "Veterinary."

Causes of action against veterinarian for veterinary malpractice, 38 COA 2d 173.

Criticism and disparagement of veterinarian’s or animal trainers’ competence, or conduct, as defamation, 2 ALR 6th 657.

LexisNexis practice guide: Massachusetts administrative law and practice, LexisNexis, annual. Section 3.04 Hearings Before Administrative Agencies.

Massachusetts practice:

Veterinarians, 24B AmJur Pleading and Practice Forms Annotated, Sections 1-60.

Veterinarians, 78 AmJur 2d, Sections 1-14.

Veterinarian's liability for malpractice, 71 ALR4th 811.

Veterinary malpractice actions, 90 AmJur Proof of Facts 3d, Section 1.

Contact for Massachusetts law about veterinary practice

Last updated: June 29, 2023

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