Internet Veterinarian Ron Hines 'Muzzled' By Government Regulators

Robert Jonathan

Dr. Ron Hines, the internet veterinarian, is being subjected to what amounts to censorship by Texas government officials for helping pet owners care for their animals.

Dr. Hines is a highly respected and licensed vet who also earned a PhD in biology. In 2002, he was forced into retirement from active practice after suffering a severe injury. Despite being disabled, Hines wanted to continue in his profession and began giving online advice to pet owners (including those without ready access to a vet). "Since 2002, he has helped hundreds, including caregivers at a primate colony in the Dominican Republic, a cat owner on a British island with no veterinarian, and an impoverished double amputee in New Hampshire whose dog is his only family. He has recognized misdiagnoses and the improper use of medication in countless cases, giving pet owners crucial information for their primary vets."

Sounds good, right? There's a catch. Hines was, however, apparently unaware that Texas enacted a law in 2005 that forbids such advice unless a vet has physically examined the animal in person. The same law is on the books in many other states. The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, which governs occupational licensing in this field, has shut down Hines' website, suspended his license to practice veterinary medicine, and fined him for allegedly violating this law.

Hines, 69, is fighting back in federal court on constitutional grounds. "Beyond being obsolete, the censorship of Dr. Hines' advice, which is pure speech, insults the First Amendment and its basic premise: that adults are capable of listening to someone and deciding what to do without interference from government officials," his lawyers insist. Because federal courts have reach different conclusions about occupational licensing and its relation to free speech, "Dr. Hines wants to fight animal suffering, not Texas bureaucrats, but the unsettled state of First Amendment law has put him on a trajectory to the Supreme Court."

In the video below, Dr. Hines points out that he is fighting for internet freedom and freedom of speech not just for himself but for everyone.

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