‘Plagued’ with problems: Legislative review outlines options for future of Texas Vet Board

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Just one day after the 88th legislative session gaveled in, legislative staff have already tasked Texas lawmakers with taking a closer look at a state agency plagued with problems: the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.

In a report released this week, staff for the Sunset Advisory Commission offered several “options” for lawmakers to consider when deciding how to move forward with the agency in charge of licensing and regulating Texas animal doctors. The report comes after years of issues with “unreliable and inconsistent data collection and management practices” that Sunset staff said have “undermined” the agency’s enforcement efforts and prevented it from meeting “basic expectations.”

In 2022, KXAN investigators discovered dozens of disciplinary documents were missing from the agency’s public licensee look-up website, which could prevent pet owners from seeing a veterinarian’s disciplinary history. KXAN also found a backlog of complaints tied up in the agency’s review process.

At the time, several top leaders at the agency stepped down.

These issues persisted at TBVME, following three different Sunset Advisory Commission reviews over the last six years that “repeatedly documented” similar data and management issues.

Lawmakers on the Sunset Advisory Commission, along with the commission’s staff, routinely review the effectiveness and performance of state agencies.

The latest Sunset staff report outlined three possible options for for the Sunset Commission and the Texas Legislature to consider:

  • Temporarily attach the TBVME to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation
  • Establish an interagency work group to provide guidance to the TBVME
  • Adopt several specific oversight recommendations to ensure the TBVME addresses issues

Under the first option, staff recommended the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) could “provide policymaking and administrative oversight” to the Veterinary Board. TBVME staff would shadow TDLR staff, who could also advise on how to procure a new database. The Veterinary Board members would act as an advisory board to TDLR on these matters.

The report goes on to say, “TDLR is well-versed in licensing, enforcement, and data management, experience the Veterinary Board currently lacks.”

  • Read the full Sunset report on the TBVME here

Under the second option, Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation would join the Texas Medical Board, the State Board of Pharmacy, the Department of Information Resources, and both major universities in the state with veterinary medicine programs: the Texas Tech University System and Texas A&M University.

This work group would assist the Veterinary Board and provide quarterly reports to the Sunset Commission and other legislative committees.

Under the final option, Sunset staff laid out specific, operational recommendations that it says should be addressed, regardless of what other action was taken. These include requiring the agency to develop consistent methods for collecting, tracking, and analyzing trends in its complaints, require the agency to prioritize complaints based on the risk they pose to the public, and require the agency to publish more information on its website — including accurate disciplinary histories for the veterinarians licensed by TBVME.

The Sunset Advisory Commission will hear more about this report and the TBVME Special-Purpose Review in a hearing on Wednesday morning. KXAN’s Avery Travis will be at the Capitol covering the hearing and will update this story when more details become available.

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