The VCPR: Veterinary law Q&A

November 14, 2020
Caitlin McCafferty, Assistant Editor

Priscilla Bowens, DVM, JD, MPH, answers legal questions at the Fetch dvm360® virtual veterinary conference.

Editor’s Note: Although the information provided in this article is provided by a lawyer, it should not be construed as legal advice.

Fort Worth, Texas–based Priscilla Bowens, DVM, JD, MPH, knows a thing or two about law and veterinary medicine. The public health researcher, health preparedness educator, health care legal counsel, and dvm360® Editorial Advisory Board member sat down with Chief Veterinary Officer Adam Christman, DVM, MBA, at the Fetch dvm360® virtual conference to answer attendees’ questions about veterinary medicine and the law.

Q: Do you think states should allow telehealth consults without an in-person exam?

Bowens: This can be viewed as controversial. Almost every state provides for some kind of emergency situation where you do not have to have that established in-person contact. With and the advent of curbside service and other changes resulting from the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, I think it is very important that states consider the option to have veterinarians—just like in human medicine—be able to offer some services through telehealth without having to examine the animal. I do think it is possible to do this as a profession.

Q: How long is the veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) valid?

Bowens: The legal answer is, it depends. It depends on where you live because it is not clearly called out in the regulations, but when I asked my state representatives they said no more than about a year would be accepted for a VCPR. I also think it depends on whether you are seeing the pet for a new issue or something for which the pet has not been seen before. It is a little bit of a gray area, but I don’t think it hurts to call your state board and see what their thoughts are, especially in times like this.

Q: What is your best advice for veterinary professionals today?

Bowens: Stay current with the changing rules and regulations from your state boards. As far as the VCPR, keep up with laws and advocate. Find time to be an advocate for yourself, because if you don’t change the law is going to change without you.