San Francisco SPCA files free speech lawsuit against California Vet Board for restricting vet use of telemedicine

The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals sued the California Veterinary Medical Board earlier this week, “challenging the limitations on veterinarians’ ability and right to use telemedicine to speak about animal patients’ health with pet owners,” the animal welfare non-profit said in a news release. The statute at present requires veterinarians to establish an in-person relationship with a client before speaking by phone or online about an animal’s health.

“The California Veterinary Medical Board is suggesting they don’t trust veterinarians that they licensed to make sound decisions for animals,” the San Francisco SPCA General Counsel Brandy Kuentzel, General said in the news release.

The news release omits important details, including the fact that in addition to state laws, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) as well as the American Animal Hospital Association ((AAHA), the latter being an established arbiter of best practices in the industry, are among the bodies that stand firmly behind what’s known in veterinary medicine as the “VCPR”: Veterinary-Client-Patient-Relationship.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), which accredits veterinary hospitals using over 900 metrics, says:

“You can’t establish a VCPR via technological means—not by telephone, text, Skype, or any other electronic means. State veterinary laws generally prohibit it. To establish a VCPR for a small animal, you must see the patient in person. The AVMA and AAHA are committed to making sure that veterinarians who practice telemedicine understand how vitally important it is that they practice it in an appropriate legal environment. We recognize that future legal and regulatory policy can change as we learn more about the impact of telemedicine on access to care and patient safety. But in today’s environment, the importance of having an established VCPR in place whenever practicing veterinary medicine, whether in person or remotely through telemedicine, cannot be overstated.”