- 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.
We encourage you to submit your complaint online through the Board’s BreEZe online complaint system. If you choose to remain anonymous you will not be notified of the status and determination of the complaint. Any questions regarding the complaint process can be directed to the Board at (916) 515-5220.
How Do I File a Complaint?
The most effective way to file a complaint is through the Board’s BreEZe online complaint system, completely answering each question and including a chronological summary of your complaint. If applicable, in the chronological summary should also include additional veterinarian name(s), hospital name(s) and contact information for any treatment provided before and/or after the treatment in question.
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, invoices, forms, and medical records received from the veterinarian or veterinary facility, and witness statements are very helpful in making a determination and can be attached to your online complaint. 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.
Who Can or Should File a Complaint
Anyone who witnesses or believes that a licensed veterinarian, registered veterinary technician 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 challenging 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. The Board is required by law to prioritize its complaint review process. California Business and Professions Code, Section § 4875.1 outlines the priorities that the Board is required to adhere to when reviewing complaints. In accordance with the mandated priorities and as part of the initial complaint review process, there is an initial triage process whereby the analyst evaluates the allegations and determines whether or not the Board has jurisdiction. 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 the initial triage is complete and jurisdiction is established, acknowledgement letters are sent to the complainant, respondent and consulting veterinarian (if applicable). Depending on the allegations, the Board will request responses to specific questions, narrative statements, and medical records including radiographs. The analyst may also request records from other agencies involved in the matter.
Upon receipt of the requested information, the complaint file is reviewed by the analyst. The analyst determines to either: (1) close the case; (2) refer it to the Board Consultant for review; (3) issue a citation and fine (4) refer for a formal investigation, and/or (5) refer for a complaint related inspection, or (6) refer to an expert for review (specialty care and treatment cases).
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 case is referred for formal investigation the complaint is forwarded to the DOI. The investigator will obtain sworn statements 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, the analyst reviews the information obtained. Subsequently, the analyst assigns the case to the Board Consultant and/or Expert for review. Based on the reviews and determinations, the Board will proceed with one of the following actions:
1) close the complaint;
2) issue a citation and fine; or
3) refer the case to the Office of the Attorney General.