Have you ever faced any veterinarian malpractice or negligence like misdiagnosis, injury or wrong treatment because of incompetence, carelessness, or wrongful judgment? If so, it’s high time for you to know how to file a complaint against a veterinarian effectively!

Annually pet owners spent about 15 billion dollars for vet care based on the information found on Americanpetproducts.org. Given the huge amount of annual spending, vet services are really sought-after in the United States. Demand breeds supply. There are more than 107,000 veterinarians in the United States according to the American Veterinary Medical Association statistics.

But not all vets are really good. Sometimes the provided treatment raises concerns. And if you believe a veterinary wrongdoing has taken place, find out how to report a veterinarian. First of all, you should know in which particular situations it is reasonable to complain about veterinary services.

How to report a vet

Top 4 Reasons Why You Can File Complaints against Veterinarians

Reason #1. Negligence

You may engage a vet to diagnose an illness, to assess an overall wellbeing or to treat your pet. But in case he or she fails to provide you with the correct information or to take proper care that leads to any sort of injury, harm or even death of your dear furry (or not so furry) creature, it means that a veterinary doctor acted negligently.

Medical errors, misdiagnosis, delays in diagnosis, negligent pre-purchase assessment of the animal can also serve as a basis for formal complaints against veterinarians. Look at the Banfield Pet Hospital review posted by a Pissed Consumer user who shares his experience with the company. According to the post, he lost his dog because of vet negligence.

"...after waiting for several hours (4 or 5 hours later) the Dr. Dominguez finally came out and tell that everything is ok, and gave me some medications. When go inside to look for my dog, Daisy was dead... HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN??? I see the Dr. trying to CPR my Daisy... When i look into the paper, the don't give any medication in the clinic, just a vitamin (Nutrical)..."

Reason #2. Professional Misconduct

All vets should adhere to the code of professional conduct. They owe a duty of care to their clients. Dishonesty, false certification, fraud, taking advantage of your age or inexperience, acting against your instructions constitute cases to file a complaint.

Reason #3 Veterinary Malpractice

If your dear animal suffers injury because of actions or non-actions of a vet within his/her professional background, it is referred to veterinary malpractice, i.e. a vet harms your pet through incompetence or carelessness. Sometimes people use the terms of negligence and malpractice interchangeably.

But these are 2 distinctly different legal concepts. The principal difference between them is that negligence involves unintentional mistakes and oversights. And malpractice is a type of negligence where a veterinarian intentionally fails to provide standard care to a patient. Negligence is considered less serious than malpractice. The following example constitutes veterinary malpractice based on Banfield Pet Hospital complaint on pissedconsumer.com.

"I brought my 7 year old yorkie into Banfield pet hospital in Brick,NJ for dental cleaning. She went to the vet regularly and she was playful and healthy. they called 4 hours later and said she had DIED and there were always possible complications from anesthesia. I was understandably inconsolable!..."

Reason #4. Animal Abuse or Animal Cruelty

If you think that no vet deliberately harms an animal, then you should study the records of disciplinary actions taken by vet boards. They say otherwise. Animal cruelty covers non-accidental injuries as well as practicing veterinary medicine without a license.

For example, found on Wbaltv.com, a Baltimore veterinarian Gregory Burbelo was accused of animal cruelty last year. He struck a barking dog brought in for surgery. “Dr. Barbelo raised his hand and struck the dog several times across the face”.

Next, if you have a complaint about veterinary services, you should know who can be of any assistance. Come to the right shop!

how to file a complaint against a vet

Where You Can File Complaints Against Veterinarians

State Veterinary Medical Associations

Some State Veterinary Medical Associations have peer review boards responsible for resolving a number of issues. But their role varies by state. Contact your state vet med association to check this information. If it is feasible, you can report veterinary malpractice or negligence here.

The associations serve as an advocate for the veterinary profession. They protect and evaluate the quality of veterinary care. State Veterinary Medical Associations adopt regulations to carry out laws governing veterinary practice in the United States. They could take disciplinary actions against those who violate these laws.

State Veterinary Licensing Board

Licensing Boards are Member Boards of the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. They bear full responsibility for establishing procedures to identify and, if it is necessary, sanction as well as remove unethical and incompetent veterinarians. Their mission is to protect the wellbeing of citizens within their jurisdiction. Truth be told, licensing boards are the only body with the jurisdiction over a veterinarian’s license in the United States of America. 

All veterinarians who practice on the territory of the United States must have a valid license. The American Association of Veterinary State Boards provides a list of jurisdictions to verify a license. In addition to veterinary malpractice cases, licensing boards accept complaints concerning unlicensed individuals practicing veterinary medicine. If you want to report veterinary malpractice, start with the American Association of Veterinary State Boards to check out the possession of a license.

Please note, that while filing a complaint, it is necessary to provide personal information because there are states where licensing boards do not investigate anonymous complaints.

How to Report a Veterinarian Effectively

  • Find your state board contact information on the official website of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
  • Download a formal complaint form on the board’s official website or obtain a copy by calling, writing or e-mailing the board office. Here is an example of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association Client Complaint Form 
  • Follow the instructions on filing the complaint. Provide as much information you have as possible (names of all persons involved, specific dates, performed treatment, comprehensive description of the event, all your pet’s medical records, expert testimony, etc.). Fill out all applicable blocks in full detail. If necessary, include additional information.
  • Verify if your vet has a valid license.
  • Submit your complaint in writing.
  • Do not forget about deadlines. In most US states you are entitled to report veterinary malpractice or negligence within 1-3 years of the incident.

As a rule, upon the receipt of a written complaint, the board assigns an investigator. This person will keep you informed about the progress of your case in accordance with the specified deadlines.
Following the investigation of your complaint, you will be informed about the result. If there is a violation, the board will undertake corresponding actions from a reprimand to license revocation.

Do remember that licensing boards are disciplinary authorities that cannot recover damages. All fee disputes are resolved through civil proceedings. There is no statistics on veterinary malpractice cases, but it is fair to assume that they are not rare. The high cost of some vet procedures induces filing lawsuits against veterinarians by pet owners.

And if you’ve decided to hire a lawyer to find out how to report a veterinarian effectively, assess the situation rationally. Even if you win, the amount of your compensation won’t be considerable. In the United States, a companion animal is considered to be an item of personal property under the law. So, your recovery will be limited to the cost of replacing your pet with another one.

And you can pay more in legal fees than you recover. On the other hand, you can report veterinary malpractice trying to prove that your pet is unique with reasonable sentimental value to you. In case of positive result, your recovery will be much higher. For example, in February 2004 Marc Bluestone from California was awarded $39,000 in a veterinary malpractice suit.

He sued veterinarians for negligence and proved that his Labrador Retriever had a special value of $30,000. Moreover, jurors awarded $9000 more to Marc Bluestone for “unreasonable” payment to Animal Referral Center.

A video below features Florida family who filed a formal complaint with the veterinary board after their pet pig’s death. Kayla Dell Vale hired a mobile veterinarian, Dr. Larry Britt, to do a routine surgery (neutering). Shortly after the procedure a four-month pig Tommy died. The woman believes that Dr. Britt let her pig bleed to death. Thus, Del Valle filed a complaint with the licensing board, and she is waiting for an investigation. By the way, Dr. Britt was on probation two times before this accident. He was given a fine and probation.

Finally, neither a complaint to state veterinary medical associations or licensing boards, nor civil proceeding will return your companion animal or inner piece. But you can restore justice and protect other people from incompetent veterinarians having reported vet malpractice or negligence.

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While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal, medical, accounting, investment, or any other professional advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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