Tips for Veterinarians Responding to Complaints Filed with the New Jersey State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners

June 24, 2013Articles New Jersey Law Journal

One of the purposes of the New Jersey State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (“the Board”) is to investigate consumer complaints filed against veterinarians. On May 15, 2013, at the New Jersey Bar Association’s Annual Meeting, a panel discussed this very topic. Panelists included: (1) Olga Bradford, Deputy Attorney General, NJ Division of Consumer Affairs, who currently counsels the Board; (2) Deborah Cmielewski, formerly Chief of Regulatory Affairs for the Division of Consumer Affairs, now in private practice, and who has represented veterinarians before the Board; and (3) this author, the former New Jersey State Veterinarian, a former Board member, and now an attorney. This article provides a summary of the information about complaints before the Board, discussed by these panelists (another panelist presented information on veterinary malpractice issues).

Upon receipt of a consumer complaint, regardless of whether it is signed or anonymous, the Board must reasonably investigate the complaint. The process for handling complaints is as follows:

  • The Board notifies a veterinarian in writing of a consumer complaint and requests that the veterinarian provide a written response.
  • The veterinarian provides a written response to the Board, including medical records, which are almost always required, within the time period allowed.
  • The Board, upon review of the complaint and the licensee’s response, at its discretion, may require that the veterinarian attend an Investigative Inquiry (“the II”). An II is similar to a deposition, where Board members and the Deputy Attorney General are permitted to ask any questions, within reason.
  • After the Board reviews a complaint it may (1) issue a letter finding no cause for action; (2) issue a Consent Order or other settlement document, after finding the veterinarian violated the laws or regulations governing the practice of veterinary medicine; (3) issue a Provision Order of Discipline and a Uniform Penalty Letter; or (4) recommend the filing of an administrative Complaint by the Division of Consumer Affair’s Division of Law.

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This article was repurposed and published in “The Bar Report” in the June 24, 2013 issue of the New Jersey Law Journal.