Confidentiality of veterinary patient records
Last updated May 2019
This is a summary of statutory and regulatory provisions that AVMA research has found addressing the release of veterinary records.
Note that state veterinary medical boards have the authority to interpret and enforce provisions of veterinary practice acts. If you have a question about how a particular state law provision applies to individual circumstances in that state, please contact the state's veterinary medical board.
|State||Provision||Requires Client Authorization to Release, with Exceptions|
|AK||Requires consent unless the release is necessary for medical, statistical, or public health purposes.||Yes|
|CA||Prohibits disclosure of records unless client consent, court order or subpoena or compliance with state or federal law. Sharing medical information between veterinarians or facilities is allowed for treatment or diagnosis. Disclosure of records is also allowed when a client files a civil or criminal complaint that places the veterinarian's care at issue. There are criminal penalties for an unauthorized release of records. The section states that it shall not interfere with the sharing of veterinary medical information between veterinarians, peace officers, and humane society officers.
The law also provides that a summary of an animal's medical records shall be made available to the client within five (5) days or sooner, depending on the condition of the animal, upon his or her request.
|CO||The client may have a copy of records or a summary, and a reasonable fee may be charged for records. Where a veterinary-patient-client privilege exists, the records are not available to the public.||Yes|
|DE||Veterinary records may be shared when required by law, subpoena, or court order or to protect the health and welfare of individuals or animals. Veterinary medical information may also be shared between veterinarians or facilities for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of animals or between veterinarians and peace officers, humane society officers, or animal control officers who are acting to protect the welfare of individuals or animals.||NA|
|FL||Records are confidential and may not be furnished to any person other than the client, his/her legal representative or other veterinarians involved in the care or treatment of the patient, without written authorization. Several exceptions exist, including exceptions for a subpoena from a court of competent jurisdiction with proper notice, statistical and scientific research (provided the information is de-identified), a medical negligence action or administrative proceeding, disciplinary actions against veterinarians, and certain records held by a state college of veterinary medicine that is accredited by AVMA Council on Education.||Yes|
|GA||Copies of patient records must be made available to the owner of the animal upon written request to the veterinarian who treated the animal or to the veterinarian facility where the treatment was provided. Such records must be made available within ten (10) business days from request. The veterinarian may charge a reasonable charge for the search, retrieval, duplication and, if applicable, mailing of the patient records.||Yes|
|HI||Information within veterinary medical records is considered privileged and confidential. It must not be released except by court order or consent of the owner of the patient. Veterinarians are obligated to provide copies or summaries of medical records when requested by the client. Veterinarians should secure a written release to document that request. Without the express permission of the practice owner, it is unethical for a veterinarian to remove, copy, or use the medical records or any part of any record.
(From AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics, Section VIII, adopted in Hawaii Veterinary Practice Act, §471-10)
|ID||Records may be released to the owner or another veterinarian upon written request of the owner.||Yes|
|IL||No veterinarian shall be required to disclose any information concerning the veterinarian's care of an animal except on written authorization or other waiver by the veterinarian's client or on appropriate court order or subpoena. Any veterinarian releasing information under written authorization, other waiver by the client, or court order of subpoena is not liable to the client or any other person. This privilege is waived to the extent that the veterinarian's client or the owner of the animal places the care and treatment or the nature and extent of injuries to the animal at issue in any civil or criminal proceeding. When communicable disease laws, cruelty to animal laws, or laws providing for public health and safety are involved, the privilege provided by this Section is waived. Copies of patient records must be released to the client upon written request.||Yes|
An animal's veterinary medical record and medical condition is confidential and may not be furnished to or discussed with any person other than the client or other veterinarians involved in the care or treatment of the animal without written authorization of the client with the following exceptions:
|IA||The information within veterinary medical records is privileged and confidential and shall not be released except by court order, a public health emergency or consent of the client. The licensed veterinarian in charge shall provide a copy of the complete record to the client not later than two business days after the licensed veterinarian or practice receives from the client a request for the record. A licensed veterinarian or veterinary practice may have an additional three business days to provide a copy of nondigital diagnostic images. The licensed veterinarian may charge reasonable and customary fees for the copying of records.||Yes|
|KS||Written client consent or other waiver required in order to disclose information. No consent required if pursuant to a subpoena, court order, civil or criminal proceeding against veterinarian, or investigation by the board.||Yes|
|KY||A veterinarian may not release information concerning a client or care of a client's animal, except on the veterinarian's receipt of a written authorization or other form of waiver executed by the client or an appropriate court order or subpoena. The privilege is waived by the client or the owner of an animal treated by the veterinarian to the extent the client or owner places at issue in a civil or criminal proceeding: the nature and extent of the animal's injuries or the care and treatment of the animal provided by the veterinarian. It also does not apply during an inspection or investigations conducted by the board, or to the veterinary reporting requirements and regulatory authority of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to inspect, investigate, and supervise horses and other participants in horse racing. The Attorney General issued an opinion in 2015 that current state law does not allow a veterinarian to legally report animal abuse and not violate client confidentiality, unless the confidentiality is waived by failure of the client to follow the specific instructions of the veterinarian to stop the abuse behavior.||Yes|
|LA||A veterinarian shall not release records to any person other than the client or a person authorized to receive the records for the client. A reasonable fee may be charged.||Yes|
|MD||A veterinarian shall temporarily release to a subsequent treating veterinarian the original non-written record of the animal upon request by the animal owner. The subsequent treating veterinarian must return the records within 30 days of their receipt or such other time as agreed to by the parties.||Yes|
|MA||Upon the request of the owner, a veterinarian shall provide copies of medical records and radiographs to the owner of an animal or to another veterinarian. A reasonable fee may be charged.||Yes|
|MN||Veterinary records are generally not subject to public inspection if maintained by a state agency, statewide system, or political subdivision.
Medical records, or an accurate summary, must be released to the animal owner or the owner's authorized agent, within two weeks of a written request. A reasonable charge for copying or preparation of a summary is allowed.
|MS||Disclosure only with permission, by court order, or pursuant to a subpoena.
Consent not required if information is released to state, local or federal agencies or civil or criminal proceedings against veterinarian.
|MO||Veterinarians shall not reveal confidential, proprietary or privileged facts or data or any other sensitive information contained in a patient's medical records or as otherwise obtained in a professional capacity without the prior consent of the client except as otherwise authorized or required by Chapter 340, RSMo, lawful rules as promulgated by the board, a court order or any other state or federal law, or a regulation.||Yes|
|MT||Information within veterinary medical records is privileged and confidential, and may not be released to anyone other than the owner of the patient, persons authorized by the owner, or other veterinarians involved with the treatment and care of the patient. Information must be released upon consent of the owner or authorized person(s). Consent may be in written, electronic, or other form of waiver, and must be documented in the patient's medical file.
When requested by the owner, or person(s) authorized by the owner, copies or summaries of the veterinary medical records and images must be provided within a reasonable time period, and as promptly as required by medical necessity. The veterinary practice may charge a reasonable fee for the preparation of summaries and copying of the records and images.
Veterinary medical information may be disclosed without consent of the owner or person(s) authorized by the owner as follows:
(i) when required by court order or subpoena;
(ii) when the owner has made the veterinarian's care and treatment an issue in civil or criminal proceedings;
(iii) upon request for statistical or scientific research, as long as the information is abstracted and de-identified; or
(iv) upon request of public health officials, animal health officials, federal, state, or local officials, or agricultural authorities when it is deemed necessary to protect the welfare of the animal, and/or to protect public health and safety.
A veterinarian may retain an animal or refuse to release records for failure to pay veterinary bills.
|ND||Contents of medical records must be kept private and not released to third parties unless authorized by the client or required by law.||Yes|
|NE||A veterinarian is not required to release patient records unless with written permission from the client except in circumstances of required disease reporting or a subpoena or court order. A veterinarian who releases information under these circumstances is not liable to the client or any other person unless the veterinarian's care and treatment of the animal, or the nature and extent of injuries to the animal, becomes the subject of any civil or criminal proceeding.||Yes|
|NV||Medical records must be available for inspection by the Board or its representative or the owner of the animal during normal business hours for at least 5 days each week and the licensed veterinarian shall provide a copy of those records to the Board or its representative or the owner of the animal receiving veterinary services not later than 48 hours after he/she receives a request from the Board or its representative or the owner of the animal. This does not include radiographs or other diagnostic images. A radiograph or other diagnostic image may be released to the owner of the animal. A radiograph or other diagnostic image must be released within 48 hours after the request is made to another veterinarian who has the authorization of the owner of the animal to which it pertains. The radiograph or other diagnostic image must be returned within a reasonable time to the veterinarian to whom it belongs.||Yes|
|NH||Veterinarians must comply with any request by an animals' owner for a copy of their medical records. A minimal fee may be charged.||Yes|
|NJ||A licensed veterinarian shall keep records confidential unless the veterinarian is required by law to release the records, or upon Board request, or upon client authorization at the time services were rendered, or it becomes necessary to release information to protect the health of a person or animal.||Yes|
|NM||Copies of records or a summary of records must be made available within ten working days upon the client's request.||Yes|
|NY||Records may be disclosed (1) upon written request of owner and a fee may be charged, (2) when a veterinarian suspects and is reporting animal cruelty, abuse or neglect, or (3) when a veterinarian reasonably believes disclosure is necessary to protect the health or welfare of the animal, a person, or the public.||Yes|
|OH||Records shall be released upon request from a subsequent treating veterinarian and must be returned to the originating practice within a reasonable time. Copies of records must also be available upon request from the owner of an animal at a reasonable cost to the owner.||No|
|OK||No licensed veterinarian licensed shall be required to disclose any information concerning the licensed veterinarian's care of an animal except on written authorization or by other waiver by the licensed veterinarian's client or on appropriate court order, by subpoena or as otherwise provided by this section. Any licensed veterinarian releasing information under written authorization or other waiver by the client or under court order, by subpoena or as otherwise provided by this section shall not be liable to the client or any other person.||Yes|
|PA||Board investigations requesting patient records require the consent of client or a court order. Allows release of information to client with a fee. Any portion of a veterinary medical record relevant to public health shall be released to public health or law enforcement officials upon demand. Veterinary medical records shall be released to the general public only with the written consent of the client, subpoena or court order.||Yes|
|RI||Veterinarians must provide a summary of records to the owner or another veterinarian upon written request of the owner.||Yes|
|TN||Health certificates issued by the state veterinarian are confidential and not open to public inspection. Records must be released to client and a fee may be charged.||NA|
|TX||A veterinarian may not violate the confidential relationship between the veterinarian and the client, except upon written or oral permission from the client, receipt of a court order, or as necessary to substantiate and collect a debt for veterinary services. A veterinarian may, without authorization by the client, disclose information contained in a rabies certificate or regarding reportable communicable diseases to a governmental entity only for the protection of public health and safety.||Yes|
|UT||Records may be released upon the receipt of written consent from a client. Veterinarians must disclose records 1) to public health officials, animal health or welfare officials, agricultural authorities, or federal, state or local officials when they deem necessary to protect the animal or to protect public health, 2) when required by court order or subpoena, or 3) when the client has made the veterinarian's care or treatment an issue in civil or criminal proceedings.||Yes|
|WA||Medical records and medical images are the property of the veterinarian or veterinary facility that originally ordered their preparation, and may be released upon request by the owner or authorized agent. Upon request by the owner or authorized agent, copies of records will be made available as promptly as required by medical necessity or public health circumstances, but no later than 10 working days upon the owner or authorized agent's request. The veterinarian may charge copying fees as set forth in WAC 246-08-400. Medical images shall be released upon request of another veterinarian who has authorization of the owner or authorized agent of the animal to which it pertains, but the medical image shall be returned within 10 working days following receipt of a written request from the originating veterinarian. Costs of copying the medical image may be charged.||Yes|
|WV||Records are the responsibility and property of the owner of the facility or the veterinarian.||No|
|WI||An owner or any other person with informed written consent of the owner may obtain a copy of the animal patient's health care records upon payment of reasonable costs||Yes|
|WY||Contents of medical records and radiographs shall be kept confidential and not released to third parties unless authorized by the client or required by law. Records shall be released to the client or the Board within 2 weeks of a written request. A reasonable charge may be required for copying or preparing records.||Yes|
Source: Staff research, AVMA Division of State Advocacy
Contact: State Policy Analyst, AVMA Division of State Advocacy