U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Texas Veterinarian Sues to Give Pet Advice Online

Maybe you heard this song before, but there's a veterinarian who would talk to the animals if he could.

At age 75, Dr. Ronald Hines is an old-school practitioner with a modern approach. He gives pet advice online.

At least he did until Texas shut him down. Now he's suing for his right to free speech -- again.

2ndChance

For more than a decade, Hines diagnosed pet ailments through his website, www.2ndchance.info. But Texas authorities suspended his license based on a state law that bars veterinarians from practicing unless they physically treat animals.

Hines sued the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, but lost at the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court also rejected him.

Then there was a change in the weather, a common occurrence in Texas and sometimes in the law. The U.S. Supreme Court tilted his way in a free speech case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra.

"Based on the outcome-determinative change in free-speech law established by NIFLA, Dr. Hines now brings this second free-speech lawsuit challenging the State Board's continuing suppression of his individualized veterinary advice -- a fully protected form of speech," the new lawsuit says.

Double Standard

When it comes to giving advice over the internet, Hines says Texas has a double standard for treating humans and animals. In 2017, the state passed a law authorizing doctors to consult with patients via webcams.

"Change is inevitable," he told Courthouse News during his first free speech lawsuit. "People are going to be using the Internet to discuss their pets, lives, health and other important subjects."

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