Defending a Complaint before the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Board

If you have received a letter from the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Board about a complaint, you may be uncertain about what to do next, what the procedures are, and what the results may be.  You may also be trying to decide whether you need to retain an attorney.  Our firm represents veterinarians and veterinary technicians (hereafter, “licensees”) in responding to the Veterinary Medical Board and defending against allegations of misconduct.

In the sections below, we attempt to address some of the questions you may have and explain the general process, procedures, and possible results.

North Carolina Veterinary Medical Board

As background, the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Board (“Board”) was established by the State Legislature to regulate the practice of veterinary medicine.  The Board consists of 8 members appointed by various lawmakers, including the Governor: six Board members are licensed veterinarians; one is a licensed veterinary technician; and one is a public member.  The Board meets six times per year. 

Possible Outcomes of a Complaint against a Licensee

In general, complaints are most often resolved in one of five ways:

(1) Dismissal of Complaint.  The Committee on Investigations can dismiss a complaint when it determines that there is no probable cause to believe that the individual has violated any standard of misconduct which would justify a disciplinary hearing.  A letter of dismissal is prepared by the Board’s attorney and mailed to all parties.

(2) Letter of Caution.  This letter may be issued when no probable cause is found, but it is determined that the conduct of the individual is not in accordance with accepted professional practice or may be the subject of discipline if continued or repeated.  The letter is prepared by the Board’s attorney and mailed to all parties.

(3) Letter of Reprimand.  A letter of reprimand may be issued when probable cause is found but it is determined that a disciplinary hearing is not warranted.  This letter is prepared by the Board’s attorney and mailed to all parties. 

(4) Suspension or Revocation of License/Registration.  The Board may suspend or revoke a license or impose a civil penalty if it determines the individual is found to have violated the Veterinary Practice Act or Administrative Rules of the Board.

(5) Summary Suspension.  If the Board determines that the public health, safety, or welfare requires emergency action, the Board may issue an order suspending a license or registration.  The Board’s attorney will prepare the order requiring the licensee or registrant to immediately cease the practice of veterinary medicine in North Carolina.  A notice of hearing will be initiated within ten days of the suspension.

Disciplinary Authority of the Board

The Board has the authority to impose discipline against any person who has been found by the Board to have committed the following acts or conduct, or for any of the following reasons, among others:

(1) The employment of fraud, misrepresentation, or deception in obtaining a license.
(2) An adjudication of insanity or incompetence.
(3) The impairment of an individual holding a license or registration issued by the Board, when the impairment interferes with that individual’s ability to practice within the scope of the license or registration with reasonable skill and safety, and in a manner not harmful to the public or to animals under the individual’s care.
(4) The use of advertising or solicitation which is false, misleading, or deceptive.
(5) Conviction of a felony.
(6) Incompetence, gross negligence, or other malpractice in the practice of veterinary medicine.
(7) Having professional association with or knowingly employing any person practicing veterinary medicine unlawfully.
(8) Fraud or dishonesty in the application or reporting of any test for disease in animals.
(9) Failure to keep veterinary premises and equipment in a clean and sanitary condition, violating an administrative rule of the Board concerning the minimum sanitary requirements of veterinary hospitals, veterinary clinics, or other practice facilities, or violating other State or federal statutes, rules, or regulations concerning the disposal of medical waste.
(10) Failure to report, as required by the laws and regulations of the State, or making false report of, any contagious or infectious disease.
(11) Dishonesty or gross negligence in the inspection of foodstuffs or the issuance of health or inspection certificates.
(12) Conviction of a criminal offense involving cruelty to animals or the act of cruelty to animals.
(13) Revocation of a license to practice veterinary medicine by another state, territory or district of the United States only if the grounds for revocation in the other jurisdiction would also result in revocation of the practitioner’s license in this State.
(14) Unprofessional conduct as defined in regulations adopted by the Board.
(15) Conviction of a federal or state criminal offense involving the illegal use, prescription, sale, or handling of controlled substances, other drugs, or medicines.
(16) The illegal use, dispensing, prescription, sale, or handling of controlled substances or other drugs and medicines.
(17) Failure to comply with regulations of the United States Food and Drug Administration regarding biologics, controlled substances, drugs, or medicines.
(18) Selling, dispensing, prescribing, or allowing the sale, dispensing, or prescription of biologics, controlled substances, drugs, or medicines without a veterinarian-client-patient relationship with respect to the sale, dispensing, or prescription.
(19) Acts or behavior constituting fraud, dishonesty, or misrepresentation in dealing with the Board or in the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.

Informal Procedures