Dealing with Veterinary Malpractice

Veterinary malpractice happens much more commonly than is comfortable for a pet owner. A veterinarian is responsible for conducting professional, thoughtful and genuine care for your pet. When a veterinarian acts out of line, either by neglecting to treat an obvious concern in your pet or by failing to use diagnostic procedures to save the life of your pet, he has just committed veterinary malpractice.

Review the Situation

When you suspect that your veterinarian has committed malpractice, the first thing you need to do is sit back and evaluate the situation. In order to be accurate, you need to replay the scenario over in your mind and make sure that what you witnessed or felt was indeed malpractice.

If your pet was brought in for a life-threatening condition for which the veterinarian failed to treat because he did not feel that your pet could be saved, that is a fine line between professional judgment and malpractice. There is room for interpretation as to whether the professional judgment of a veterinarian can determine the absolute outcome of the situation.

You should always make sure that your emotions are kept in check when evaluating the possibility of veterinary malpractice.

Seek Legal Advice

Once you have determined that you think your pet has lost his life because of veterinary malpractice, the next thing that you need to do is to talk to a lawyer who specializes in veterinary malpractice cases. The important thing to remember is that veterinary malpractice can be hard to prove; not impossible, but difficult. That being said, you will need a good lawyer who has experience in these types of cases.

If you are unsure of where to start to find such a lawyer, you should first make contact with the Animal Defense Legal Fund. They are an organization that specializes in connecting victims with attorneys.

Report the Incident

Reporting the crime of veterinary malpractice is one the most useful and justice serving things that you can do. Even through legal action, the veterinarian is not going to lose his license to practice. This can be frustrating to the pet owner who lost their pet at the hands of veterinary malpractice. 

However, you should keep in mind that your misfortune can save another animal's life. If you fail to report the crime, no other pet owners will be aware of what this veterinarian did to your pet. At least if you report him or her, the pet owning community can have the chance to make an informed decision before using this particular veterinarian.

If you're interested in filing a complaint against your veterinarian, here is a list of applicable places to do so:

  • State Veterinary Medical Board (in your home state)
  • American Veterinary Medical Association
  • American Animal Hospital Association
  • Better Business Bureau

Most of these organizations conduct their own investigation of each complaint and determine which fines, if any, should be applied.

Research Your Veterinarian

The best thing that you can do to help prevent veterinary malpractice is to research your veterinarian before you choose him. All of the organizations listed above keep public records and you can view them and check out any other complaints that may have been filed against your veterinarian.

Another resource that you can use is word of mouth. If you're considering using a new veterinarian, be sure to talk to other clients and find out what their position and opinion is on him. This is probably one of your best resources, because it's the best way to get a clear and honest opinion.