By Elizabeth Ruiz
A South Texas veterinarian whose license has been suspended because he gave advice online is fighting back in court.
The Institute for Justice will file a first-amendment lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of Dr. Ron Hines of Brownsville.
The retired veterinarian, who's physically disabled, 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.
"His veterinary advice is useful, cheap and often free. Pet owners can make a decision about whether they want to talk to him and there's no reason the state of Texas can tell him he cannot help people," said attorney Jeff Rowes with the Institute of Justice based in Virginia.
The Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners shut down Hines, suspended his license and fined him last month because he was giving advice online without first examining the pet in person.
"Dr. Hines is an expert diagnostician and he asks people to send their veterinary records. He'll take a look at pictures and talk extensively to the pet owners before he makes a suggestion," said Rowes.
He told 550 KTSA News that the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners is violating the First Amendment by not allowing Hines to continue providing his services online.
"The Institute for Justice and Dr. Ron Hines, a Texas-licensed veterinarian, are filing a ground-breaking First Amendment lawsuit that is going to redefine how the government can restrict advice that professionals can give using the internet," said Rowes.
He says this case is about protecting internet freedom and free speech for Americans.
"The outcome will have implications for medicine, law, psychology, financial advice and many other occupations that often involve nothing but speech in the form of advice," said Rowes.
Photos: our-compass.org; tbvme.state.tx.us; tbvme.state.tx.us; 2ndchance.info