When veterinarians start a new practice, they need to remember that there are many legal steps to take beforehand. Not following these can result in hefty fines or costly lawsuits. By taking precautions, you’ll protect yourself, your business and your patients.
Addressing these legal steps in-depth goes beyond the scope of this article, especially because the procedures for following these steps vary between jurisdictions. If you have any questions, consult a lawyer.
1. Legally Forming a Company
Your company needs to have a legal presence to do much of the work of business. This includes assuming and paying debts (for instance, to get your business off the ground), signing contracts (such as your location’s lease), assuming obligations, suing and being sued and otherwise being held responsible for its actions. Registering your business on a federal level will also give you an EIN number, which is what you’ll use to pay taxes.
There are several different types of legal entities your business can become, including but not limited to, a corporation, an association, a proprietorship or a partnership. Each will have its own benefits and drawbacks, so consider your options carefully. Be sure to research the requirements for forming your company on the national, state and local levels.
2. Local Zoning Requirements
Zoning is designed to keep a neighborhood orderly, both geographically and in terms of its goings-on. For instance, it irritates neighbors and damages property values to have big businesses in what’s otherwise a peaceful suburban setting, so municipalities will pass zoning restrictions to avoid this problem. This particularly affects businesses that operate out of the home.
Before you sign a lease or buy property, always double-check with your city to make sure you’re not violating zoning laws. If you are, you’ll need to pick a different location.
3. Permits and Licenses
All 50 U.S. states require veterinarians to have professional and current state licensure. These requirements differ from state to state. Additionally, many states require licensure, certification or registration for vet techs. Some states may require licensure or certification for an individual hospital, clinic or other facility. Finally, both the DEA and states have requirements in place for possession of controlled substances, such as Ketamine. It’s important to research all of these requirements for your jurisdiction, and how they affect your office.
4. Insurance Requirements
Part of your professional or business licensure requirements may involve buying insurance and keeping it current–especially malpractice insurance. Do research about what your particular state requires, and if you have questions consult a lawyer.
Consider buying other kinds of insurance your state may not request, such as property insurance, or a more extensive plan than your jurisdiction wants. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
5. Setting Up Employment
Finally, make sure your procedures for employing other people are set up properly. For instance, most states will levy an employment tax. They may request that you put together an employee handbook (which is a good idea in general!), and you’ll also have to make sure your workplace meets OSHA and other safety standards.
Regulations, zoning requirements, taxes and other legal steps are put into place to keep your business, its clients and its patients safe, and to benefit the public. The legal considerations surrounding starting a business may be intimidating, but with care, research and consultation, you’ll be able to meet all requirements.
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