Veterinarian License Defense in Florida

Have you been alerted of an Administrative Complaint filed against your Florida license in veterinary medicine? Are you concerned about how the complaint may affect your future security, reputation, and career? A complaint filed against a licensed veterinarian can have detrimental consequences, including substantial fines, probation, educational classes, damage to your reputation, and sometimes suspension or revocation of your license.

Even if the complaint has no merit, it is highly recommended that you partner with a professional license defense attorney like those at The Umansky Law Firm as soon as you’re notified of an impending investigation. That will allow ample time to gather information about the incident and build a defense for your case before meeting the investigator. The stronger your case, the more desirable an outcome we can accomplish in protecting your future as a licensed Florida veterinarian.

What Do Veterinarians Do?

Veterinarians treat animals, primarily cats and dogs, and some provide more specialized care to birds, rabbits, ferrets, reptiles, and other pets that people might have. According to the American Medical Veterinary Association, about 16 percent of veterinarians work in practices that involve mixed and food animal practices, where they treat cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and sometimes wild animals, and some veterinarians work solely with horses.

Veterinarians provide many services to treat pets, such as:

  • Diagnosing health problems
  • Vaccinating against diseases
  • Treating and dressing wounds
  • Performing surgery
  • Setting fractures
  • Medicating animals that are ill or diseased
  • Educating owners on animal nutrition, behavior, and breeding

According to Florida Statute Chapter 474.202(9), the practice of veterinary medicine means:

Diagnosing the medical condition of animals and prescribing, dispensing, or administering drugs, medicine, appliances, applications, or treatment of whatever nature for the prevention, cure, or relief of a wound, fracture, bodily injury, or disease thereof; performing … the diagnosis of or treatment for pregnancy or fertility or infertility of animals … includes the determination of the health, fitness, or soundness of an animal.”

Why Is It Essential for Veterinarians to Be Licensed in Florida?

Professional licensing is required to work as a veterinarian in Florida. To become licensed, veterinarians must meet educational requirements with a bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine. This requirement is mandatory to become licensed and guarantees pet owners and the public that veterinarians are qualified to treat, diagnose, and medicate animals. Performing any tasks within veterinary medicine’s capacity without a valid license can lead to damaging outcomes that might involve criminal charges.

Who Licenses Veterinarians in Florida?

Individuals receive their veterinarian license through the Board of Veterinary Medicine under the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR). The Board of Veterinary Medicine is responsible for licensing and regulating the practice of all professionals in veterinary medicine in Florida. This Board governs a variety of tasks, including:

  • Renewal of licenses
  • Establishing fees for application and exams
  • Deactivating and reactivating licenses
  • Periodical inspections of veterinary establishments

What Complaints Against Veterinarians Lead to Disciplinary Action?

Licensed veterinarians in Florida can face disciplinary action from a variety of complaints, often including negligence or deception while practicing. According to Florida Statute Chapter 474.214, complaints that could lead to disciplinary action include:

  • Filing a false or deceptive record or report
  • Practicing on a suspended or revoked license
  • Practicing veterinary medicine without a license
  • Advertising in a manner that’s fraudulent, false, or deceptive
  • Being unable to practice with reasonable skill or safety to patients
  • Providing services while intoxicated or using drugs or narcotics
  • Being convicted of a crime related to the practice of veterinary medicine

How Would Someone File a Complaint Against a Florida Veterinarian?

To file a complaint against a licensed veterinarian in Florida, individuals contact the DBPR and complete a Uniform Complaint Form. DBPR’s online service also allows the public to confirm that a professional’s license is valid. However, suppose it’s found that a person submits a complaint without ultimate facts, proof, or ill intent to mislead an investigation. In that case, they may be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.

How Does the Complaint Process Operate in Florida?

After the DBPR receives a complaint against a licensed veterinarian, an investigator will research it further. The investigator will request an interview with you and collect further information to establish whether the complaint has sufficient legal grounds to file a formal Administrative Complaint.

Information collected during a DBPR investigation usually includes:

  • Interviews with complainants
  • Interviews with the subject of the complaint
  • Interviews with witnesses
  • Issuing subpoenas
  • Recording sworn statements
  • Gathering detailed evidence
  • Preparing reports

As a licensed Florida health inspector, it is strongly advised that you retain a qualified and skilled professional license attorney as soon as possible to be present at an interview during the investigation and help you establish a response. An experienced lawyer can often achieve a dismissal before the complaint becomes available to the public. At this time, you have the best opportunity of saving your career and reputation from damage.

If the investigation procures enough evidence to move the allegation to the next step, the complaint will be reviewed by a Probable Cause Panel. That will usually involve members on the DOH who review the documents and evidence associated with the claim.

The Probable Cause Panel Reviews the Complaint

If the investigation discovers sufficient information to push the Administrative Complaint forward, it will be reviewed by a Probable Cause Panel. This panel reviews evidence to support the complaint along with rules or regulations that were violated.

At this time, it is essential to your career that you partner with an experienced administrative defense attorney. Your professional future as a reputable veterinarian depends on how you manage this process. To protect your career, we strongly discourage any attempt to resolve it alone.

The panel review may lead to three possible results:

  • Finding no probable cause: a dismissal of the case
  • Issuing a letter of guidance: a determination that a minor violation did occur
  • Issuing a formal Administrative Complaint: the most severe of outcomes

A determination of “no probable cause” means there was not enough evidence to prove that you violated any rule or regulation. A “letter of guidance” is not a disciplinary action but can still damage your professional reputation. If a formal Administrative Complaint is issued against you, the Administrative Complaint process moves forward to the next step.

What’s the Process of an Administrative Complaint?

An Administrative Complaint summarizes the proof and information found against you during the investigation and the specific laws or regulations you’re accused of violating. At this time, the complaint becomes public record. Even if the complaint becomes nullified, your reputation as a licensed veterinarian could be damaged. After consulting with your attorney, you can decide whether you want to attend an Informal Hearing or Formal Hearing.

Informal Hearing

If you choose to attend an Informal Hearing, you give up your option to dispute any of the accusations against you, nor can you reveal new evidence. Attending an Informal Hearing means you’ve accepted the complaints, and the Board will make a final decision on what penalties you’ll face.

Formal Hearing

If you want to dispute the allegations and evidence against you during the investigation, you’ll move forward with a Formal Hearing. This hearing is at Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) and presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ considers the evidence from both sides and makes a final Recommended Order to the Board. The DBPR Board of Veterinary Medicine then makes a final decision on what disciplinary actions will be imposed against you.

Remember that you can appeal the decision by filing a petition for judicial review if your veterinary license is suspended or revoked. Your attorney is an invaluable advocate and a vital part of your defense team when going through this process—always seek counsel from them before making a final decision.

How Can a Professional License Defense Attorney Help?

At The Umansky Law Firm, our professional license defense team investigates each case in depth to discover the facts and the most effective way to proceed. Complaints against veterinarians can occasionally go to criminal court and be liable to criminal charges. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer with extensive experience in professional license defense is vital.

Our attorneys can help you in some of the following ways:

  • Review the complaint against you and build a defense by obtaining evidence, documents, and witnesses that help you
  • Prevent you from incriminating yourself as you respond to the allegations
  • Defend against potential criminal charges that may arise from the complaint
  • Determine the motive or bias of the person who made the complaint against you
  • Help you respond to the Probable Cause Investigation by securing documents, witnesses, and other methods to prove there is no probable cause for the complaint
  • Help to try and get the complaint dismissed by the Probable Cause Panel
  • Argue that a guidance letter is better than a prosecution
  • Mitigate any potential penalties the Board may want to take
  • Present evidence, witnesses, and cross-examine witnesses at a Formal Review Hearing
  • Help dispute the findings at an Informal Review Hearing
  • Appeal the hearing

Trusted Florida Veterinary License Defense Lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm

If you have been blamed for an offense that may lead the Board to rescind or suspend your license or business activities, contact The Umansky Law Firm to defend you. As skilled trial attorneys, we can help you build a strong defense against the allegations you face, including dismissal of the investigation or complaint lodged against you. We have criminal defense experience that we can put to use defending government agencies like the DBPR. We are highly qualified to defend you in matters threatening your professional license, and are determined to help you avoid license suspension and criminal prosecution.

The Umansky Law Firm’s professional license defense team includes former prosecutors, defense attorneys, and lawyers with experience working directly for the DBPR. To speak with an administrative defense attorney today about a complaint against your Florida veterinary license, schedule a free consultation by completing a contact form or call today at (407) 228-3838.