First Amendment

Suspended veterinarian challenges ban on Internet advice

A Texas veterinarian whose license was suspended for dispensing advice over the Internet is challenging state regulations that require him to physically examine animals before offering his views.

Veterinarian Ronald Hines filed a federal lawsuit on Monday that contends the regulations are a violation of the First Amendment, report the Associated Press, a press release and a backgrounder. He is represented by lawyers from the Institute for Justice, who say the regulation squelches competition and forces pet owners to make more expensive appointments with local vets.

Hines started out offering his advice for free, but he received so many inquiries that he began charging $58.

“Dr. Hines’ case raises one of the most important unanswered questions in First Amendment law: When does the government’s power to license occupations trump free speech?” the press release says. “The nation’s lower courts are conflicted, and although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that advice is speech, it has not applied that ruling in the context of occupational licensing and the Internet. Ultimately, this case or another like it will have to go to the United States Supreme Court.”

The case could have implications for medicine, law, psychology and other occupations that involve professional advice, the institute says.

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