The AAEP recognizes that quality professional healthcare often requires the services of a Healthcare Team. The attending veterinarian is the leader of the Healthcare Team and is ultimately responsible for all healthcare decisions made concerning an equine patient until that patient is referred or discharged. The attending veterinarian may delegate appropriate healthcare tasks, allowable by state law, to subordinate healthcare providers. Referral, as defined by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM), American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS), American College of Theriogenologists (ACT), and American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC), is the transfer of responsibility for diagnosis and/or care of a specific problem from a referring veterinarian to a receiving veterinarian.

The establishment of a valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship and the examination and diagnosis of the patient by the attending veterinarian prior to the delegation of any equine healthcare task to subordinate healthcare providers is prerequisite to ethical veterinary practice. The attending veterinarian is responsible for determining the professional competency of a healthcare provider before delegating equine healthcare tasks.

The following outlines the appropriate roles of different healthcare providers within the scope of ethical professional veterinary practice:

A. Licensed Veterinarians: The examination, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and management of equine healthcare are to be provided and supervised by licensed veterinarians.
B. Credentialed Technicians: Licensed Veterinarians may delegate healthcare tasks that are not restricted to veterinarians, to Licensed/Certified/Registered Veterinary Technicians (LVTs) who are under the employ and supervision of the Licensed Veterinarian. While some states allow LVTs to perform “minor” dental and surgical procedures, the AAEP does not support the delegation of any invasive procedures and procedures with significant risk of complication (e.g. castration, dental extraction and
advanced procedures, reproductive examination).
C. Uncredentialed Assistants: Licensed Veterinarians may delegate ancillary healthcare tasks to Veterinary Assistants (not registered, certified, or licensed) that are under the employ and supervision of the Licensed Veterinarian. The Licensed Veterinarian may delegate direct supervision of a Veterinary Assistant to a LVT.
D. Human Healthcare Professionals (HHP): Veterinarians occasionally confer with or have Licensed Human Healthcare Professionals (MD, DC, DDS, etc.) perform procedures on their equine patients. While the collaboration between veterinarians and HHPs advances healthcare standards, this collaboration is usually only appropriate between veterinary and HHP specialists. The ethical indications for having HHPs perform procedures on veterinary patients are rare, and procedures performed by the HHP on veterinary patients should be performed under the Immediate Supervision of a Licensed Veterinarian. The attending veterinarian is responsible for ensuring compliance with state law before soliciting HHP services.
E. Unlicensed Allied Healthcare Providers (UAHP): (e.g., Veterinary Physical Therapist/Rehabilitator, Farrier, Hospice Caregiver, etc.) While conferring with and inclusion of UAHPs in an equine healthcare team may be appropriate in the treatment of some equine patients, the healthcare services provided by the UAHP should be performed under the order and/or supervision of the Attending Veterinarian, who is responsible for reviewing the training of the UAHP before soliciting his/her services. Ethical practice indicates that services beyond an attending veterinarian’s scope of professional training and competency be referred to an appropriately trained veterinarian who provides he required healthcare services. The AAEP does believe that, in certain situations, working with UAHPs under the proper context and within the construct of a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship can lead to optimum health care for the horse.

Approved by AAEP board of directors in 2014.

Resource Type

  • Position Statements


  • Careers
  • Horse Health
  • Professional Conduct
  • Veterinary Practice

Publish Date

January 1, 2014