Hines v. Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners Retired Texas Vet’s Free-Speech Fight to Keep Helping Animals

The Institute for Justice

This First Amendment lawsuit seeks to eliminate obsolete regulatory barriers to the use of the Internet to provide expert advice.

This suit has implications for medicine, law, psychology, financial advice, and many other occupations that often involve nothing but speech in the form of advice.

Dr. Ron Hines—a retired and physically disabled Texas-licensed veterinarian—has used the Internet since 2002 to help pet owners from across the country and around the world, often for free and sometimes for a $58 flat fee.  Ron helps people who have conflicting diagnoses from their local vets, who live in remote parts of the world without access to trustworthy veterinarians, and who cannot afford traditional veterinary care. No one has ever complained about Ron’s advice.

Then Ron discovered that he had been on a decade-long crime spree.  In Texas, it is a crime for a veterinarian to give advice over the Internet without having first physically examined the animal.  On March 25, 2013, the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners shut Ron down, suspended his license, fined him, and made him retake portions of the veterinary licensing exam.  Texas did this without even an allegation that Ron harmed any animal.

Now Ron is fighting back.  Together with the Institute for Justice, Ron has filed a free-speech lawsuit in federal court to defend his First Amendment right to communicate with people about their pets using the Internet.  But this case is bigger than Ron Hines.  It is about protecting Internet freedom and free speech for Americans everywhere.

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