Frequently Asked Questions
If you don’t find the answers you are looking for here, contact the MVMA at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517/347-4710.
How long do I have to keep veterinary records?
If a client asks for a copy of the animal’s record, what are my obligations?
Are veterinarians exempt from jury duty?
A client asked me to write a prescription rather than have me dispense the drug out of my clinic. What are my rights and responsibilities?
What about internet pharmacies. If they are outside Michigan, must I be licensed in the state of the pharmacy to authorize the prescription?
Am I obligated to write a phoned or faxed prescription request from a pharmacy?
May I charge for authorizing a prescription?
I’d like to be able to fill human prescriptions for my employees as a benefit to them. Can I do this legally?
If I believe an internet pharmacy has performed an illegal act (for example, dispensing a prescription drug to my client without my authorization as the attending veterinarian who has a veterinarian-client-patient relationship), what should I do?
If we are out of a controlled substance but need it to treat one of our patients, can we get it from a neighboring veterinary clinic?
I have a client who travels a lot and wants me to give her a two-month supply of a controlled substance. Am I allowed to do this?
I have a client who is going to a local kennel in the area to get their shots, including a rabies vaccination. Is this legal?
I have an animal that has been abandoned at my property, what steps do I need to take?
When sending a client home with a written or electronic prescription and/or medications, what is the minimum labeling that needs to be on both items?
I need to submit my annual controlled substance inventory. When is that due and where to I send it to?
I have several veterinarians at my practice. Can a veterinarian without a controlled substance license use controlled substances obtained by someone else in the practice with a license?
Who may own a veterinary practice?
What are sharps as defined by the state?
Can I be held legally responsible for administering emergency care on a stray animal brought in by a concerned citizen?
Can I refuse to provide future veterinary care for a difficult client?
How important are consent forms? Because they disrupt my normal business, I hesitate to take the time to use them.
Is it illegal to act as an animal chiropractor without a veterinary license?
1. How long do I have to keep veterinary records?
See item no. 4 below. Per changes to the Veterinary Administrative Rules there is now a law that governs the data contained in and maintenance of records at a veterinary clinic:
R 338.4921 Medical records; requirements. Rule 21.
A veterinarian who practices veterinary medicine in Michigan shall maintain a medical record for each patient that accurately reflects the veterinarian’s evaluation and treatment of the patient. Entries in the patient record shall be made in a timely fashion. The patient record shall contain documentation of a valid veterinarian-patient-client relationship.
A record shall be maintained on either a herd or flock, or an individual patient. Records shall be legible and shall be retrievable. A record shall be maintained in either a written, electronic, audio, or photographic format.
A record for an individual patient, group, herd, or flock shall document all of the following:
- Identification that may include, but not be limited to, a tattoo, tag number, lot number, pen number, age, name, markings, sex, and species of the patient, as available.
- Date of the last veterinary service.
- Name, address, and telephone number of the client.
- Location of patients, if not at the location of the veterinary practice.
- Reason for the contact including, but not limited to, the case history, problem and/or signs of a problem, and whether the contact was a routine health visit or an emergency call.
- Vaccination history, when appropriate and if known.
- Results of the physical examination and a list of abnormal findings.
- Laboratory reports and other reports, when appropriate.
- Diagnostic procedures utilized and the reports that pertain to these procedures.
- Procedures performed including, but not limited to, surgery and rectal palpations.
- Daily progress notes, if hospitalized.
- Documentation of informed consent, if appropriate.
- Documentation of diagnostic options and treatment plans.
- Records of any client communication deemed relevant.
- Documentation of prescribed medication.
Records shall be maintained for a minimum of 3 years from the date of the last veterinary service.
Based on the statute of limitations for bringing certain claims against veterinarians, other general record guidelines include professional malpractice (2 years), negligence (3 years), property damage (3 years) and breach of contract (6 years).
2. If a client asks for a copy of the animal’s record, what are my obligations?
There is no law regarding this subject in Michigan. While the records do belong to the veterinary practice, ethically the veterinarian should provide the client a copy or summary of the medical records when requested. The AVMA’s Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics states as follows on the topic of medical records:
- Veterinary medical records are an integral part of veterinary care.
- Medical records are the property of the practice and the practice owner.
- Ethically, the information within veterinary medical records is considered privileged and confidential. It must not be released except by court order or consent of the owner of the patient.
- Veterinarians are obligated to provide copies or summaries of medical records when requested by the client.
- Without the express permission of the practice owner, it is unethical for a veterinarian to remove, copy, or use the medical records or any part of any record.
3. Are veterinarians exempt from jury duty?
Exemptions from jury duty are no longer granted. While jury duty is an obligation for each of us when called to serve, it can pose some serious obstacles to running a practice and making a living. Here is a suggestion: although you cannot “get out of” jury duty, you can request to serve at a more convenient or less busy time of year. The courts don’t have to honor your request, but they may take it into consideration.
4. A client asked me to write a prescription rather than have me dispense the drug out of my clinic. What are my rights and responsibilities?
To comply with Public Health Code 333.16221(A) a veterinarian is obligated to honor a client’s request for a prescription versus dispensing, providing there is a valid Veterinarian Client Patient Relationship (VCPR) and the drug is deemed medically necessary and in the animal's best interest by the veterinarian. Veterinarians are not obligated to prescribe when requested to do so by a third party, i.e. a pharmacist. The request must be made by the client. It is ethical for veterinarians to refuse a prescription if clients do not follow instructions, i.e. yearly heartworm test, lab work to evaluate drug effects, etc. Veterinarians should be willing and able to explain to a client when a prescription is appropriate based on AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics.
5. What about internet pharmacies. If they are outside Michigan, must I be licensed in the state of the pharmacy to authorize the prescription?
No, the client has the option of filling a prescription at any authorized pharmacy. In this example, the veterinarian’s practice of veterinary medicine, which would include writing a prescription, would be confined to his or her state.
6. Am I obligated to write a phoned or faxed prescription request from a pharmacy?
If you are asked to approve a prescription, you should do so only if the prescription is medically appropriate for the patient and you have a valid veterinarian-patient-client relationship. The decision as to whether a prescription drug should be used for a patient is made by you – the veterinarian – not a pharmacy.
7. May I charge for authorizing a prescription?
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) does not have a position on this subject. According to the Michigan Board of Pharmacy, there are no regulations preventing a veterinarian from charging a fee for writing a prescription. In general, veterinarians must charge adequately for their professional services to cover the costs of maintaining a veterinary clinic, paying staff, and offering quality medical care to a client’s animal. Some veterinarians have chosen to charge a prescription issuance fee in those cases when the veterinarian does not directly dispense the medication to the client. Some have considered implementing a policy to charge a specified fee, whether a drug is dispensed or prescribed. Others have reviewed fees and the need for any adjustments within the context of all services rendered. And still others charge for their professional services using units of time (e.g. when reviewing prescription drug authorizations or conducting telephone consultations with clients).
8. I’d like to be able to fill human prescriptions for my employees as a benefit to them. Can I do this legally?
After consulting with the Michigan Board of Veterinary Medicine, we received the following recommendation: "Veterinarians should not fill prescriptions for human treatment. It is probably a fairly common practice as the drugs are the same but it is still dispensing to treat humans and that is practicing human medicine without a license."
9. If I believe an internet pharmacy has performed an illegal act (for example, dispensing a prescription drug to my client without my authorization as the attending veterinarian who has a veterinarian-client-patient relationship), what should I do?
Report it!! The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has created a Pharmacy Complaint Form to simplify the reporting process for practitioners. The form identifies the organizations to which the form should be sent. Regulatory agencies cannot act unless they have factual complaints to pursue. Forms can be found at: http://www.avma.org/issues/prescribing/complaint_form.pdf. If you are unable to locate this form on the web contact MVMA at 517/347-4710 and we will send you a copy of the complaint form.
10. If we are out of a controlled substance but need it to treat one of our patients, can we get it from a neighboring veterinary clinic?
Yes, you can get the drug you need from a neighboring clinic. However, if you are transferring a schedule 2, you would need to fill out the DEA 222 form. If you are transferring schedule 3-5, you will need to create an invoice for your records. Not having a clearly defined paper trail is simply inviting trouble, should something go wrong and the DEA investigates.
11. I have a client who travels a lot and wants me to give her a two-month supply of a controlled substance. Am I allowed to do this?
Yes, you can give a client a two-month supply, but please use common sense.
12. I have a client who is going to a local kennel in the area to get their shots. Is this legal?
A kennel owner, who is not a licensed veterinarian, may not give routine vaccinations to another person’s dog unless the kennel owner is licensed to practice veterinary medicine as a veterinary technician, or is acting under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Assuming the individual is not acting under the direct supervision of a veterinarian, this practice would be illegal under the Michigan Public Health Codes, Act 368 Public Acts of 1978, Article 15, Part 188, Section 18808 which is overseen by the Michigan Department of Community Health. Under this Act, the administration of any vaccination to someone’s animal is considered “the practice of veterinary medicine” and thus should only be done by a licensed veterinarian or by a licensed veterinary technician under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.
13. I have an animal that has been abandoned, what steps do I need to take?
The Abandoned Animal Law, Public Health Code 333.18838, states:
- A veterinarian may dispose of an animal placed in the veterinarian's custody for treatment, boarding, or other care and abandoned by its owner by sending the notices required by this section. The veterinarian shall send a first written notice of an intent to dispose of the animal by certified mail to the owner, at his or her last known address and a second written notice not less than 5 days after sending the first notice. Upon the expiration of 5 days after sending the second written notice to the owner, a veterinarian may dispose of the animal.
- The disposal of an animal does not release the owner from payment of costs incurred, including the disposal.
- This section does not prevent the owner or agent from mitigating additional costs by removing the animal from custody of the veterinarian.
- In the case of an animal abandoned by its owner, the owner is considered to have relinquished all rights to the animal.
Disposal can mean adopting the animal out, turning the animal over to a local shelter or humane society or, as a last resort, euthanasia. Sample letters can be found here: 1st Notification, 2nd Notification
14. When writing a prescription and sending a client home with medications, what is the minimum labeling that needs to be on the items?
R 338.4920 Safeguards for drugs used in practice of veterinary medicine: Rule 20. (1) If drugs are dispensed in the manufacturer’s original container, the original instructions shall be included. (2) If drugs are dispensed in other than the manufacturer’s original container, both of the following provisions shall apply:
The container shall be equipped with a child-safe lock mechanism, if appropriate.
The veterinarian’s own label shall be affixed to the container and shall include all of the following information:
- The date the drug was dispensed.
- The name of the patient.
- The name of the client.
- Complete instructions for use of the drug.
- The name of the drug.
- The strength for unit dose.
- The quantity dispensed.
- The withholding time for food-producing animals and poultry.
- The expiration date of the drug, when appropriate.
- The veterinarian’s name or clinic’s name, telephone number, and any appropriate precautionary statements, such as “Keep out of reach of children.”
Written or electronic prescriptions should contain the following details:
- Name, address, and telephone number of veterinarians
- Name, address, and telephone number of clients
- Identification of animal(s) treated, species and numbers of animals treated, when possible
- Date of treatment, prescribing, or dispensing of drug
- Name, active ingredient, and quantity of the drug (or drug preparation) to be prescribed or dispensed
- Drug strength (if more than one strength available)
- Dosage and duration
- Route of administration
- Number of refills
- Cautionary statements, as needed
- Expiration date if applicable
- Slaughter withdrawal and/or milk withholding times, if applicable
- Signature or equivalent
15. I need to submit my annual controlled substance inventory. When is that due and where do I send it to?
Licensees must maintain an inventory of all controlled substances under their control and submit an annual inventory of these substances to the State between April 1 and June 30. An inventory is required for each location where controlled substances are kept, beginning on the day the licensee first engages in the practice. The inventory shall be signed and dated (including whether it is the opening or closing of the day), and include the licensee’s name, address and DEA number.
Schedule 2 drugs should be listed separately from all other drugs and exact counts should be made. For substances listed in schedules 3, 4 and 5, the count or measure may be estimated, but if the container holds more than 1,000 dosage units (pills, etc.), then an accurate count is required. Federal law requires a biannual inventory be taken and kept on the premises. Saving a copy of the annual state inventory will put the veterinarian in compliance with this requirement.
Send the state inventory to: State of Michigan Bureau of Health Professions, Health and Regulatory Division, 6546 Mercantile Way, Suite 2, PO Box 30454, Lansing, MI 48909.
16. I have several veterinarians at my practice. Can a veterinarian without a controlled substance license use controlled substances obtained by someone else in the practice with a license?
A veterinarian with a Michigan Controlled Substance License and DEA Registration may delegate the administration of a controlled substance to another veterinarian who does not possess a Michigan Controlled Substance license. It’s important that veterinarians realize that this delegated function falls under the Public Health Code Section 333.16215 (I) which states that “a license shall not delegate a task or function that requires the level of education, skill, and judgment required of a licensee.” To comply with the law, the licensed veterinarian must make the determination that a controlled substance is required and must prescribe the substance before the unlicensed veterinarian administers the substance. This means that the unlicensed veterinarian is working under the same constraints as a veterinary technician when controlled substances are involved (such as with euthanasia).
17. Who may own a veterinary practice?
Under Michigan law, a licensed veterinarian may engage in the practice of veterinary medicine and operate as a sole proprietor, or may form a business as a partnership, a corporation, a professional corporation, a limited liability company, or a professional limited liability company. The tax consequences of each type of business entity differ. The Michigan Public Health Code states “A person shall not engage in the practice of veterinary medicine unless licensed” as a veterinarian. The Public Health Code defines “person” to mean “an individual, partnership, cooperative, association, private corporation, personal representative, receiver, trustee, assignee, or other legal entity”. The applicable laws are ambiguous and the Michigan courts have not yet decided the question of whether a non-licensed veterinarian may own a business that engages in the practice of veterinary medicine.
18. What are sharps as defined by the state?
Sharps are part of the medical waste that is regulated by the State of Michigan. They include needles, scalpels, syringes and IV tubing with needles attached, and those parts of a syringe, with or without an attached needle, that are contaminated with an infectious agent.
19. Can I be held legally responsible for administering emergency care on a stray animal brought in by a concerned citizen?
As stated in the Good Samaritan act, effective March, 2000, a veterinarian or veterinary technician is not liable for civil damages if an animal has been brought to the veterinarian by a person other than the owner of the animal. Also, the veterinarian will not be held responsible if he/she does not know who owns the animal or is unable to contact the owner of the animal before a decision must be made with respect to emergency treatment or euthanasia. The immunity granted by the Good Samaritan Act applies to both of the following: an injury to an animal or death of an animal that results from acts or omissions by the veterinarian or veterinary technician in providing treatment to the animal or; the euthanasia of a seriously injured or seriously ill animal.
This section does not, however, apply to an act or omission by a veterinarian or veterinary technician amounting to gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct in providing treatment to an animal. Also, the veterinarian should notify the animal control authority in the county in which the animal is found of the disposition of the treatment rendered to the animal before the end of the first business day following the day treatment is rendered.
20. Can I refuse to provide future veterinary care for a difficult client?
Veterinarians may choose whom they will serve. If there is ongoing treatment, providing a referral rather than severing the veterinary-client-patient relationship, veterinarians may avoid allegations of abandonment. When there is not ongoing medical condition, you can inform the client, preferably in writing, that veterinary services will no longer be provided. In an emergency, you should render service to the best of your ability. Notify the client of your intentions before an emergency arises to help avoid misunderstandings at a potentially emotional time.
21. How important are consent forms? Because they disrupt my normal business, I hesitate to take the time to use them.
The importance of documentation cannot be over-emphasized. Even exemplary advice and patient care is difficult to demonstrate without documentation. Signed consent forms document that the service was authorized and risks were acknowledged by the client – which is what attorneys refer to as informed consent. Consider the use of consent forms prior to anesthesia, surgery, dental procedures, euthanasia, adoption, boarding, hospitalization or transportations and for situations involving behavior modification and zoonoses. Utilization of consent forms may provide an additional layer of protection and discourage certain types of allegations.
22. Is it illegal to act as an animal chiropractor without a veterinary license?
Yes, practicing chiropractic on an animal without a veterinary license is illegal according to the Michigan Board of Veterinary Medicine. The veterinary licensing board however has no jurisdiction because the violator is not licensed. This would be the responsibility of the local prosecutor. In May 2006 MVMA adopted the following position statement:
The examination, diagnosis and treatment of nonhuman animals through manipulation and adjustments of the spine, specific joints, cranial sutures, or other tissue, is the practice of veterinary medicine and to be performed only by licensed veterinarians or licensed chiropractors working under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian.