- Filing a Complaint
- How Do I File a Complaint
- Who Can or Should File a Complaint
- The Complaint Review Process
- Additional Investigation of Complaints
- Pet Protection Act (formerly the Puppy Mill Law)
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Filing a Complaint
Filing a complaint with a state agency can be intimidating; however, the Veterinary Medical Board (VMB) cannot take action without input from the public regarding activities that may cause actual harm or create a potential for harm to animal patients. Complaint forms may be obtained by downloading and mailing the Veterinary Medical Board complaint form or by requesting the complaint form by calling the VMB at (916) 263-2610.
The VMB recommends complaints that are urgent in nature to be filed using the downloadable form and mailed directly to the VMB. You may also submit your complaint online using the general online complaint form. PLEASE NOTE: any complaint filed online takes 2-4 weeks for receipt to the VMB.
How Do I File a Complaint?
The most effective way to file a complaint is to summarize your complaint and the sequence of events. Your summary should include the PATIENT'S NAME, BREED, AGE, CURRENT PHYSICAL CONDITION, and a sequential list of dates when veterinary medical services were provided.
The complaint summary should include the reason for the complaint with as much detail as possible. Emphasis is placed on providing necessary factual information rather than conclusions. Supplemental information such as copies of any documentary evidence, letters, bills or forms received from the veterinarian or veterinary facility, and witnesses statements are very helpful in making a determination and can be attached to your complaint summary. If you have a witness or witnesses, you will need to obtain signed statements from them and either include those statements when you submit your complaint, or no later than 30 days after receiving notification from the VMB that your complaint was received. A Witness Information Form is included with the complaint form.
Who Can or Should File a Complaint
Anyone who witnesses or believes that a licensed veterinarian or unlicensed person's behavior or activities may cause harm (or the potential for harm) to animal patients or may be illegal, can file a complaint. The most effective complaints contain, firsthand, verifiable information. While anonymous complaints will be reviewed, they may be impossible to pursue unless they contain documented evidence to support the allegations.
The Complaint Review Process
The VMB receives hundreds of complaints each year regarding the conduct of veterinarians, registered veterinary technicians, unlicensed persons, or conditions of a veterinary facility. The initial complaint review determines whether the VMB has jurisdiction. The VMB's authority to investigate is limited to administrative violations of the California Veterinary Practice Act, including, negligence, incompetence, fraud, deception, unprofessional conduct, and sanitary condition of a facility. If the initial review reveals that the complaint is regarding a fee dispute or collection methods, the complaint is closed. Consumers are notified that the VMB has no jurisdiction and are provided with information outlining the procedures for a small claims court action.
Once jurisdiction is established, the persons named in the complaint are contacted and asked to submit written statements and copies of any available medical records, x-rays or laboratory reports. As soon as this information is received, the complaint file is reviewed by the VMB's veterinary medical advisor. The advisor makes a determine to either: (1) close the case; (2) refer it to the VMB's complaint review committee for further review; (3) issue a citation and fine, or (4) refer it to the Department of Consumer Affairs' Division of Investigation (DOI) for a formal investigation.
Complaints under investigation contain essentially unsubstantiated allegations and the information contained in the file is exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act. Complaint information is only available via subpoena after the investigation is closed.
Additional Investigation of Complaints
If a formal investigation is indicated, the complaint is forwarded to the DOI. The investigator will obtain sworn statements from all parties that include complaint details and answer specific questions regarding the complaint. To ensure that the success of the investigation is not jeopardized in any way, the details of the investigation remain confidential and are not public record.
Once the investigation is completed, it is reviewed by an expert witness to
determine whether or not there are actual violations. Based on the expert
witness review, the VMB's options include:
1) close the complaint;
2) issue a citation and fine; or
3) refer the case to the Attorney General's (AG) office.