State Board Prosecutes Clinics in Pennsylvania over Ads

At least 50 veterinarians in Pennsylvania face $250 fines in prosecution notices from the state board for placing “false” advertisements.

The regulation, adopted on May 13, 2000, requires clinics to include emergency care hours, whether a doctor is on-call or at the hospital, and which species will be treated. It was recently enforced after a new Yellow Pages book was published and board members noticed the number of veterinarians that were not abiding by the regulation, said Teresa Lezo, counsel for the state board of veterinary medicine. “If we didn’t enforce it we wouldn’t be doing our job to protect the public,” she said.

The regulation was originally created to protect owners who needed emergency care for their pets from going to a clinic and discovering that nobody was there, Lazo said. Pet owner complaints prompted the regulation, she added.

The Board did not receive comments from veterinarians about the regulation when it went through several approval processes, but several doctors and veterinary professionals have complained about the fines they received last month.

Many professionals said they were unaware of the regulation, which Lazo explained is not a viable argument.

To raise awareness about the regulation, the Pennsylvania VMA published an article titled “Emergency Services Advertising Requirements”  after receiving several calls from members.

 “We thought we were in compliance as did many, many veterinarians,” said Lynette Ott, practice manager for Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital in Pennsylvania . A display ad for the hospital runs in several yellow page books and includes emergency care in a small print with surgery and other services provided. “We do emergency work during the day and refer clients to a new 24-hour emergency clinic that recently moved into the area,” she explained.

Ott was one of many veterinary clinics to receive prosecution notices from the state board on March 5, 2007. The notice included an offer to sign a consent form and pay a $250 fine or fight the action and face $1,000 in fines, Ott said. Since the hospital has two owners, both doctors must pay the $250, she added.

“They should be ashamed of themselves,” Ott said. “This is nothing but an overzealous bureaucrat trying to raise money for the board.”

NEWStat Legislation & regulation