By James R. Hood
Doctors, lawyers, accountants, financial advisors and every other kind of expert imaginable routinely appear on television, write guest columns for newspapers, pen magazine articles and even run their own websites.
Their goal? Well, maybe it's partly to garner new patients and clients but it's also part of the pro bono public service that professionals are expected to provide. For decades, it has been accepted practice for such professionals to offer general consumer advice through media outlets, always noting that their advice is just that -- general information, not a replacement for a visit to one's own doctor, lawyer, etc.
Veterinarians and their professional associations don't seem to subscribe to this notion, however. Trying to get any kind of expert opinion from veterinarians' professional associations or from individual practitioners, other than academicians, is very difficult. Vets complain bitterly among themselves about news stories and social media content and send amazingly vile and obscene emails to reporters but seem to feel no obligation to lift a finger to inform public opinion.
ConsumerAffairs' queries to professional and trade veterinary associations, for example, often go unanswered. Ignoring press calls is something that is practically unheard of in the association world.
It is, to borrow a phrase, a pig-headed approach. One vet who does not buy into it is Ronald V. Hines, a 69-year-old Texan whose website is frequently cited in news reports, including a recent ConsumerAffairs story on diabetes in dogs.
This one-vet attempt at consumer education rubs the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners the wrong way. The board's rules prohibit a veterinarian from giving advice unless he or she has first physically examined the animal and the board suspended Hines' license as a result of his giving advice to pet owners via the Internet. Now Hines has sued the board in federal court, alleging the board's action infringes his First Amendment rights.