Discipline of members

The AAHA Discipline of Members covers authority of the Association, grounds for discipline, that which may be imposed, procedure, judgement, hearings, and members’ rights and members’ rights and responsibilities.

  1. Authority of Association to Discipline
  2. General
  3. Grounds for Discipline of Members
  4. Member Representative for Disciplinary Proceedings
  5. Discipline Which May be Imposed
  6. Procedure
  7. Disciplinary Judgment
  8. Hearing and Hearing Panel
  9. Member’s Rights and Responsibilities
  10. Protocol for Failed Evaluations

1. Authority of Association to Discipline.

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Article III, Section 6 of the American Animal Hospital Association Bylaws gives the Association the authority to govern and discipline its members.

2. General.

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The following procedures have been adopted by the Board of Directors of the American Animal Hospital Association (“Association”) pursuant to Article III, Section 6 of the Bylaws and are designed to set forth the rules and procedures which will be followed by the Association in the discipline of members of the Association. The procedures are designed to meet the due process requirements of law. Any terms not defined herein shall have the meaning given to them in the Bylaws.

3. Grounds for Discipline of Members.
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The following are grounds for discipline of members of the Association:

  1. Failure to follow any material provisions of the Bylaws of the Association and other rules and regulations established by the Association for its members.
  2. Failure to maintain the Standards of Accreditation, as they may change from time to time, including any mandatory standards.
  3. Failure to maintain the requirements for membership in the Association.
  4. Failure to adhere to the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics as determined by the Judicial Council of the AVMA or the ethical rules of a comparable Canadian body as determined by such body.
  5. Failure to comply with the conditions of probation established by the Board of Directors or the failure to respond to a disciplinary or information request from the Association’s Membership Audit and Control Committee (“MACC”) or the Board of Directors.
  6. Any act or omission by the Medical Director or Accredited Practice Team member that results in the suspension or termination of a professional license, designation, or certification by the applicable governmental licensing body.
  7. Conviction of a Medical Director or Veterinary Associate of a felony or agreement to a plea bargain where such person admits to a felony.
  8. Violation of the License Agreement between the Association and the member.

The foregoing constitutes a nonexclusive list of grounds for discipline. Other acts or omissions that constitute unprofessional misconduct or that bring the Association into disrepute or impair the goodwill of the Association may also constitute grounds for discipline.

4. Member Representative for Disciplinary Proceedings.

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Whenever disciplinary proceedings are initiated against an Accredited Member, the Medical Director and/or the Administrative Director shall act on behalf of the member.

5. Discipline Which May be Imposed.

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  1. Letter of warning or reprimand
    1. A letter of warning or reprimand carries with it no loss of membership or membership rights. The purpose is to place a member on notice that a particular action is not condoned and to cease the particular conduct.
  2. Probation
    1. Probation may only be imposed by the Board of Directors.
    2. Probation serves as warning to the member that the conduct is contrary to the Association’s Bylaws, requirements of membership, or is grounds for discipline. Probation shall be conditioned on the member’s future good conduct. Additional reasonable conditions may be set forth in the terms of probation.
    3. Probation shall be imposed for a specified period of not more than one year and without loss of full membership privileges.
  3. Provisional Status
    1. A member may be placed on provisional status by MACC for a period of no more than six months for the following nonexclusive list of reasons:
      1. a member’s failure to be evaluated by Association staff after being scheduled two times.
      2. a member’s failure to notify the Association with regard to the member’s decision of a re-evaluation if the member previously failed an evaluation.
      3. a member’s failure to comply with any mandatory Standards of Accreditation.
      4. a member’s failure to comply with any provision of the Association’s Bylaws.
    2. If a member is placed on provisional status, it will be removed from all client-oriented websites such as the hospital locator and from the Association’s membership directory until it regains full membership status.
    3. MACC may adopt such additional rules regarding provisional status as it determines from time to time, provided such rules comply with these Procedures For Discipline.
  4. Suspension
    1. Suspension may only be imposed by the Board of Directors.
    2. Suspension means all membership privileges are forfeited during the suspension period, at the end of which full membership privileges may be restored.
    3. Suspension shall be imposed for a period of not more than one year.
  5. Expulsion (termination of membership)
    1. Expulsion may only be imposed by the Board of Directors.
    2. Expulsion means all membership privileges are forfeited and the expelled party is no longer an Accredited Member of the Association.

6. Procedure.
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The following procedure shall be followed by the Association in the discipline of members.

  1. Complaint Process
    1. Discipline of members by the filing of a complaint may be initiated by an officer or member of the Association, by a member of the Association staff, or by any other persons or organizations.
    2. A complaint for discipline must be in writing, identify the complainant, and contain sufficient factual background to establish grounds for initiating disciplinary proceedings.
    3. A complaint shall be directed to the attention of the Association’s Chief Executive Officer. The complaint shall then be forwarded to MACC or another appropriate committee for investigation.
  2. Investigative Process
    1. The Chief Executive Officer or designated Association staff shall assemble all available information and facts concerning the complaint. The Chief Executive Officer has the authority to:
      1. Determine the merits of the complaint.
      2. Collect facts and evidence or designate Association staff to do the same.
      3. Dismiss the complaint or close the case, if resolved.
      4. Refer the complaint to MACC or directly to the Board of Directors with a recommendation.
    2. MACC or the appropriate investigative committee has the authority to:
      1. Interview the member and/or other witnesses.
      2. Issue a letter of warning or a provisional penalty.
      3. Dismiss the complaint or close the case, if resolved.
      4. Collect additional facts and evidence, if necessary.
      5. Recommend specific disciplinary action to the Board of Directors.
    3. Following the investigation by MACC or other appropriate investigative committee, a summary report shall be prepared outlining the substance of the complaint, the evidence reviewed and the process of investigation. The report, with copies of all evidence and other information pertinent to the complaint, shall be made confidential and forwarded to the Board of Directors with a specific recommendation. The following recommendations, in addition to other actions, are open to the investigating committee:
      1. The facts do not support the charges or the taking of disciplinary action
      2. The violation is a misunderstanding of the Association Bylaws or the grounds for discipline by the member and the matter has been corrected.
      3. The violation is a serious matter and the facts justify disciplinary action as recommended by the appropriate committee.
  3. Disciplinary Process
    1. Discipline of members shall be considered by the Board of Directors only upon receipt of a written recommendation for discipline accompanied by a summary report of the investigation or facts in the case from either the Chief Executive Officer of the appropriate investigative committee.
    2. Prior to the filing of a recommendation for disciplinary action, the person or committee recommending the action shall have:
      1. satisfied themselves that there is probable cause for initiating disciplinary proceedings;
      2. notified the member in writing of the grounds for discipline; and
      3. offered the member the opportunity to correct the deficiency or violation within a specified period and/or offer mitigating information or factual evidence in his/her own defense.
  4. Disciplinary Action
    1. A recommendation for discipline other than a letter of warning, reprimand, or provisional penalty shall be reviewed by the Board of Directors. The Board shall satisfy itself as to the procedures and particulars of the case. The Board may:
      1. request further evidence or refer the case back to the originator of the recommendation.
      2. weigh the charges against the facts and disciplinary recommendations and dismiss the matter or modify the recommendations.
      3. accept the findings, and/or recommendations, and either close the case or take disciplinary action.
  5. Failure to Pay Dues and Fees
  6. The Chief Executive Officer is authorized to suspend or expel members for failure to pay dues or fees as established by the Board of Directors, following notice as required by the Bylaws under Article III, Section 4.

7. Disciplinary Judgment

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  1. Before a disciplinary penalty involving suspension or termination of membership becomes effective, the following procedures regarding the right to a hearing shall be followed:
    1. Hearing: The member shall be informed that the member is entitled to a hearing. During such hearings, the member shall be given the opportunity to present a defense to all charges brought against the member. Requests for hearings shall be in writing and directed to the Chair of MACC or such other Association staff as the member is directed and must be received within thirty days after the member has been notified of the charges and opportunity for a hearing.
    2. Notice: The member shall be notified in writing of the charges and of the time and place of the hearing.
    3. Charges: The written charges shall include a copy of the alleged violations and/or a copy of the Bylaws alleged to have been violated.If no request for a hearing is made or if the member fails to attend the hearing within the time provided, the decision shall take effect on the date specified.

8. Hearing and Hearing Panel

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  1. Membership
    1. In the event a hearing is requested by the member who is the subject of a disciplinary recommendation, the hearing shall be held not later than three (3) months after the response of the member is filed with the Association. The hearing panel shall consist of the President or President-Elect of the Association and at least three (3) other members of the Board of Directors designated by the President for that purpose. The President or President-Elect shall not vote in the outcome of the hearing unless he or she is the tie-breaking vote. The decision of the hearing panel may be appealed to the full Board for final decision.
    2. Proceedings and DecisionsThe proceedings may be recorded. A court reporter may be provided at the member’s expense. Formal rules of evidence shall not apply to the hearing. Either the Association or the member may, at their option, have legal counsel present to advise them. The hearing panel shall make a decision in writing within thirty (30) days of any such hearing with a copy of the decision being sent to the member by certified mail, return receipt requested, which decision shall set forth findings of fact and conclusions and shall, in the event discipline is decided upon, set forth specific dates, terms and conditions of such discipline.

9. Protocol for Failed Evaluations

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  1. Accredited Practices that fail to meet one or more mandatory standards or fail to achieve the minimum point total in one or more sections of the Standards of Accreditation during their onsite evaluation may:
    1. Relinquish their Accredited Practice status immediately; or
    2. Request another on-site evaluation at the Practice’s expense. This second evaluation must be conducted within six months of the first evaluation. During the period of time between the first and second evaluation, the Practice shall be placed on either probation or provisional status.
    3. Accredited Practices failing to achieve the minimum point total in every section during the second evaluation shall immediately be terminated as Accredited Practices.
  2. Other Violations of the Standards of Accreditation:
    1. Accredited Practices that have a history of three multiple failed evaluations will be automatically terminated as Accredited Practices.
    2. Accredited Practices that fail to abide by a mandatory standard may be placed on probation or provisional status or, if the practice has a record of continual failure to abide by mandatory standards, it may be immediately terminated as an Accredited Practice.
  3. Appeals Process/Re-Accreditation
    1. Practices that lose their accreditation as a result of a failed examination or violation of any mandatory standard may:
      1. Appeal their termination to the Board of Directors.
        1. All appeals must be in writing, must clearly state why the member believes that termination was not justified, must be received within thirty days after the date of the notice of termination.
        2. The Board of Directors shall hear such appeal in accordance with the protocols adopted by the Board of Directors from time to time.
      2. Reapply for accreditation and complete the process required of all prospective members.

Approved January 1990, Amended March 1990, Revised November 1994, Revised March 2001, Revised December 2003, Revised January 2009; Revised January 2018.