Veterinary practice ownership by non-veterinarians has been a hot subject in several states with arguments for and against pushing the matter to legal corridors. There are several states that have legalized the ownership of veterinary practices by non-veterinarians but other states remain adamantly opposed to the matter. At the moment, rules that govern non-veterinarians owning a veterinary practice remain fluid and complex but not universal. States like Florida, Colorado, and California have made it easy for those wondering can a non-veterinary own a veterinary practice.
There are many reasons why you might consider owning a veterinary practice as a non-veterinarian but the most common reason is finding an exit strategy. Most professional veterinarians start a vet practice without the thought of an exit strategy. However, there comes a time when you need to think of retiring or just relinquishing the management of your vet practice to another party. This is where your plans can hit a snag. Most veterinarians want to transition their practice to someone they trust. However, that party may not have always be a veterinary professional.
For those willing to own a veterinary practice as non-veterinarians, there are legal hurdles you will have to overcome with the help of an experienced attorney. There are practice owners who have been able to own vet practice in states that have strict veterinary practice ownership laws and we will be looking at what loophole they may have capitalized on to achieve this milestone.
But first, let us look at what is prohibiting non-veterinarians from owning a veterinary practice in certain states.
The daunting complications surrounding the issue of ‘can a non-veterinarian own a veterinary practice’ have been discouraging to many potential vet practice owners. The inconsistency of the law across states and its enforcement is also subject to change if that particular state’s veterinary board changes.
So why is it that a non-veterinarian owning a veterinary practice is such a big deal in certain states? Based on a philosophical reason: states’ veterinary boards are against non veterinarians owning vet practice for the simple fear of medical decisions being made by someone without the professional skills or license to make those decisions. It is also a contentious point considering the daily operations in veterinary firms.
However, to circumnavigate such fears, veterinary practice partners (including both veterinarians and non-veterinarians) should develop a framework of what constitutes medical decisions. If state laws are clear, it is easier to find a way through the legal quagmire. However, where the state laws are on the fence, things can be a lot more complicated. In some cases, the rules may not be enforced but that is subject to the veterinary board’s predication. Should the board decide to be thorough, then non-veterinarians who counted on a lack of oversight may find themselves in legal hot water without warning.
The legal implications on the issue can also play a part when a practice owned by a non-veterinarian is sold. Some states require a sizable goodwill portion of the sales to go to the veterinary corporation.
On the surface, more than half of states do not allow the ownership of veterinary practice by non veterinarians. Only about 15 states officially legalize non-veterinarians owning vet practice. All the others may or may not allow you to own a vet practice as a non veterinarian. This is quite unfortunate as it prevents those with veterinary practice management and direction skills from taking their careers to the next level and becoming owners. It could also push such folks out of the veterinary field altogether when they were so committed to making a difference in the practice.
If you are stuck on the issues of can a non veterinarian own a veterinary practice, here are options you should consider:
A non-veterinarian could still buy into a veterinary practice and uphold the medical integrity in states prohibiting non veterinarians from owning a vet practice by considering splitting the practice into two separate LLCs. Both companies can be set up as LLC with one (which the non veterinarian can buy into) being the management service organization and the other being the veterinary corporation.
The management service organization would be in charge of a couple of activities such as the recruitment of technicians, take responsibility for the veterinary practice assets such as the premises, inventory, and payroll. However, this company cannot be in charge of the veterinarians’ payroll.
The second company would only handle the professional operations and hence would be in charge of making the medical decisions. For both companies to work amicably it is always best to draft a contract that clearly outlines the duties and responsibilities of each of the two companies.
Another arrangement that can help you if the puzzle of can a non veterinarian own a veterinary practice is a hard one to crack is to consider taking over the administrative structure. In this concept, a non veterinarian can work in conjunction with a veterinary professional service corporation which is taking over the veterinary services.
The administrative structure provides all services and staff that are needed by the veterinary wing. You will, therefore, have a close interest in the veterinary service even if you are not part of the professional team. You can provide the leased space, furniture, equipment, recruitment of the professional staff, training, billing, accounting, and all the general administrative services.
As a non veterinarian, you will get your profits in form of the fees charged for the services offered to the veterinary wing.
Legally, this structure has been able to satisfy most of the states’ concerns about protecting the public since mechanisms are in place to allow the medical services to be provided by the medically skilled professional who is licensed to do so.
By now the question of can a non veterinarian own a veterinary practice should be a clear one to you. If you have non veterinarian friends owning vet practices in states that prohibit the direct ownership of veterinary practice by non veterinarians, then it is because they took advantage of the options discussed above.
You could do the same and have shares in a veterinary practice even if you are not a professional veterinarian yourself. Provided you are not exceeding the 49% share, non veterinarians can own a veterinary practice in some states, an option you could exploit if you are open to the idea of relocation.