In the State of Texas, the practice of medicine, law, accounting, optometry, veterinary medicine among other professions requires licensure by a state board (or other licensing entity). Many professionals may be surprised to learn that their licensure can be jeopardized by activities they engage in outside of work. Suspension or revocation of a professional license can affect a person’s career for years to come, and it is therefore highly important to defend such actions quickly and effectively, in order to protect one’s career and livelihood.
The Veterinarian Who Killed a Cat
In a bizarre case out of Brenham, a veterinarian had her professional license revoked after posting a picture of herself with a dead cat on social media. People reports that the photo showed the veterinarian holding a dead cat with an arrow through its head. The caption described the cat as her “first bow kill." While the doctor was never charged criminally for the cat’s death, the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners nonetheless filed its own charges. The Board ultimately suspended the doctor from practicing veterinary medicine for one year and ordered an additional four years of professional probation.
The veterinarian’s attorney says his client plans to appeal the decision. He described the incident as having “nothing to do with the practice of veterinary medicine." However, most people would agree it is difficult to argue that allegations of cruelty to animals does not impact a person’s ability to treat them medically. The facts of this case illustrate how a person’s off-duty activities can be so linked to the practice of his or her profession that a licensing board feels obligated to take action.
Teachers and Students
In a more classic example, teachers are often sanctioned by the Texas Education Agency for inappropriate relationships with students. This occurs with tragic regularity. In fact, My Statesman reports that the number of reported cases of inappropriate relations between students and teachers has increased for nine years in a row. The most recent data shows a 36 percent increase in reported cases over the previous year – the largest increase in a decade. Even when such conduct does not lead to criminal charges, it reflects so poorly on a teacher’s ability to practice the profession that his or her teaching license is usually revoked with little hesitation. Sadly, false reporting can also occur. In such a case, it is important for teachers to protect their livelihood with sound legal advice from an experienced attorney.
On a different issue for teachers: an administrative law judge recently recommended that a Texas teacher’s license should not be suspended due to her legal off-hours consumption of marijuana in Colorado. The New York Times reports that the judge likened the conduct to a teacher who gambles in Nevada, then returns to Texas, where gambling is illegal. He found that she was not “unworthy to instruct” and recommended that the Agency take no action against her license.
Whether the conduct at issue occurred on or off the job, it is important to consult with an experienced Texas professional license defense attorney as soon as possible after receiving notice of any action against your professional license. Your career and livelihood can be seriously impaired by the results of any such investigations. These effects can last for years to come.