PhotoTexas veterinarian Dr. Ron Hines says he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review his lawsuit challenging the Texas Veterinary Board’s prohibition on offering veterinary advice over the Internet.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld Texas law requiring that a veterinarian physically examine an animal prior to offering advice on how to treat or care for it.

Since 2002, Hines kept active in his retirement by providing advice on his website to pet owners around the world, many of them in remote locations, often for free.

But in 2013, the Texas Veterinary Board suspended Hines' license, fined him and made him retake portions of the veterinary licensing exam, finding that he had violated a Texas law tht makes it illegal for a veterinarian to give advice about an animal he has not physicall examined.

“This case stands at the crossroads of internet freedom, free speech, and economic liberty,” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes, who represents Dr. Hines. “Dr. Hines gives advice for a living, and advice is speech protected by the First Amendment. This case is ripe for review because the federal courts of appeal across the country disagree about the extent to which the First Amendment protects the speech of licensed professionals when they give individually tailored advice.”

Hines is expected to file his petition for review with the U.S. Supreme Court in late June. He has 90 days from the date of the Court of Appeals’ decision.

The Institute for Justice is currently litigating a similar case in Kentucky that challenges the state’s use of psychology-licensing statutes to regulate the speech of a newspaper advice columnist.

In June 2014, IJ scored a victory in the District of Columbia, where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the city’s tour-guide licensing scheme, finding that it was an unconstitutional infringement of tour guides’ free speech rights.


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