Guided by core values outlined in a Code of Ethics, veterinarians hold themselves and their colleagues to a high standard of ethical conduct. These core values include compassion, transparency, respect, trustworthiness, professionalism and competence. Maintaining professionalism in all aspects of a member’s practice is an expectation of the public and this includes promoting one’s business and services.
Why is the College involved in advertising by veterinarians?
In serving the public interest, the College, like other regulated professions, ensures that the public is protected from false, misleading or deceptive information in marketing by its members. The College also ensures that marketing by their members is consistent with the duties, integrity, and dignity of the profession.
Let’s take a step back and consider why veterinarians are regulated. Regulation of a profession occurs when the people, through their government, determine that certain types of services are sufficiently complex as to create a level of risk to the public that the service must be limited to those with specific qualifications.
Those granted the privilege of practicing that profession are given an oligopoly: a state of limited competition in which a market is shared by a small number of service-providers. In exchange for that limited competition, veterinarians and other professionals are expected to uphold certain values and ethics – among them, professionalism.
Veterinarians provide professional services for which a fee is charged to the public; therefore, they must balance professionalism with working in a competitive market. However, the public expects veterinarians to adhere to standards of professionalism which are fundamentally different than those of retailers. Marketing to the public must be consistent with these standards and not bring the profession into disrepute.
Veterinarians, in promoting their services, should choose marketing strategies that ensure the dignity and integrity of the profession are upheld. The information in their advertising must be factual and verifiable. Demonstrating professional and ethical conduct in the advertising they produce contributes to veterinarians earning and maintaining public trust.
Third party companies that provide marketing and advertising services to businesses, including website design, are not always familiar with these expectations or the professional regulations pertaining to marketing. It is up to the member to inform third party companies and review any website design or advertisement that is created to ensure they comply and are professional.
By complying with the regulations on advertising, veterinarians maintain their professionalism and continue to earn the public trust.