Veterinarians in private practice are business owners and managers and as such may use marketing as a means to improve the viability of their practice and advise the public of business hours, etc. However as professionals, veterinarians should be aware that they are held to a very high standard with respect to professional behaviour and deportment. Marketing by individual veterinarians contributes to the public perception of not only the individual veterinarian but to the profession of veterinary medicine overall. For this reason, individual veterinarians must be sensitive to the impact that marketing has on their colleagues and the profession as a whole.
The marketing rules in the BCVMA Code of Ethics (sections 100-107) are designed to protect the public and their animals and to maintain or improve the image of the profession in the eyes of the public. The guidelines below are designed to aid the interpretation of the marketing provisions of the bylaws.
1. Members may not use words or phrases that are inherently comparative and imply that their colleagues do not meet the same standard.
The words listed below are examples of inappropriate and unacceptable wording; the list is not exhaustive.
a) Related to Facility:
'State of the Art', 'Latest', 'Modern', 'Up to Date', 'Safe'
b) Related to the Type of Care:
'Advanced', 'Complete', 'Excellent', 'Exceptional', 'Finest', 'Dependable', 'Trustworthy', 'Honest', 'Progressive', 'Superior', 'Best', 'Accurate', 'Effective', 'Compassionate', 'Caring', 'Loving', and 'Sensitive'
c) Related to Prices:
'Affordable', 'Compassionate Pricing', 'Reasonable', 'Realistic', 'Great Value'
2. Members must use 'Full', 'Full Service', 'Fully Equipped' in reference to the Practice Standards only; they may use these phrases when the facility meets all of the requirements in 'Appendix B', the BCVMA Practice Standards for veterinary fixed facilities.
3. Members must be explicitly clear when using terms such as 'emergency'.
The following are examples of this requirement; this is not an exhaustive list of examples.
a) Members may include these phrases only when the facility is staffed 24 hours a day by a licensed veterinarian and the facility meets the practice standards requirements for emergency facilities:
- '24 hour care', '24 hour emergency', 'Emergency Facility'
b) Facilities not staffed by a veterinarian 24 hours per day, may use the following phrases:
- 'for emergencies call "...", 'after hours call "...", or 'emergency pager service'.
Equipment and Procedures
4. Members can list only the equipment and procedures that are truly part of the actual facility and generally available at the facility.
Members may list or describe equipment or procedures only if the equipment or procedure is generally available at the facility; if brought in by visiting practitioners or made available only by referral they cannot be said to be a part of the practice.
5. Members must be explicitly clear when advertising fees.
The following are examples of unacceptable fee-related content:
a) phrases such as 'certain conditions may apply' are not permitted,
b) ambiguous phrases such as 'distemper combo',
c) fees that do not reflect the reasonable costs of the services described.
6. The onus is on the member to show that the fee offered is reasonable.
7. All fee-related advertising must include a date or time period for which the stated fees are valid.
8. Member must not use phrases describing a dollar per pound of body weight fee.
Members must not use phrases that indicate a fee for services (e.g. surgery, euthanasia or cremation) based on a dollar value per body weight. For example, 'spays - Above 60 lbs. $1.00/lb. extra'.
9. Members must not manipulate clients by appealing to their sense of fear, worry, loneliness, desperation, grief, etc.
Non Veterinary Practitioners
10. Members must not encourage the use of non-veterinarian practitioners outside of an established veterinarian/client/patient relationship and proper delegation and supervision of the delegated task.
11. Members must not extol their own virtues; peers and clients should be the means of objective assessment.
12. Members writing articles, columns in print or electronic format, or those engaging in radio or TV interviews or question and answer sessions, should speak in generalities when talking about treatment options etc, and refrain from indicating that they have special insight.
Guarantees & Claims
13. Members must not use statements that may be conceived as a guarantee.
14. Members must not use statistical data or scientific pronouncements or claims other than those published in peer-reviewed journals.
15. Members must not list or describe specialists or specialties in their advertising materials unless one or more of the practitioners regularly working at the facility holds a specialty designation.
16. Members are permitted to indicate a special interest or focus in a particular area of practice without specialist status. E.g. 'practice restricted to cats'.