Dealing with Liability Threats to Your Veterinary Practice

DAN-BAXTER-BIO-BIG1 by Daniel L. Baxter

Veterinarians are exposed to liability threats each time they encounter a potentially dangerous animal in a clinical setting. Fortunately, you have several weapons at your disposal to minimize your risk.

Written Warnings and Notifications

The first line of defense against liability is the use of written warnings and notifications. This encompasses warnings issued to staff members and pet owners, as well as compliance with statutory notification requirements, which are requirements imposed by California law. Examples of statutory notification requirements include:

  • Duty to inform law enforcement when you believe an animal has been a victim of abuse.
  • Duty to inform law enforcement when you believe an animal has been injured or killed in a staged fight.
  • Duty to report injuries occurring at rodeos.
  • Duty to report suspicions of a rabid animal or rabid animal bite.
  • Referrals

    In some cases, referrals of dangerous animals can help protect against liabilities.


    Prescription medication can sometimes help with known behavioral problems. However, it is important to provide the animal’s owner with complete, detailed instructions any time medication is prescribed.


    Since you cannot possibly neutralize every threat of liability, strive to keep appropriate insurance policies in place to protect your practice. The type and amount of coverage you need will depend on the nature of your practice, your specialty and other factors. When selecting an insurance policy, remember to consider your own personal comfort or discomfort with risk, as well as the value of your business and personal property.