2017 June - The nuts and bolts of building, buying or selling a veterinary hospital

Hospital licences

If you are performing a procedure that according to current standards should not be undertaken without the administration of an anaesthetic, other than a local anaesthetic, and including a spinal anaesthetic, then you need to perform this procedure (defined as ‘major surgery’) at a licensed hospital. 

There are exceptions for emergencies, if it is impractical to move the animal, or if it is dangerous to the health of the animal for it to be moved.


Building a hospital

When building a veterinary hospital you need to submit an application for a licence, floor plans and a nomination of a superintendent to the Board for approval.  The following guidelines are available from the Board’s website (see Resources and Guidelines) to assist:

  1. Minimum Requirements for Veterinary Hospitals
  2. Responsibilities of a Veterinary Hospital Superintendent
  3. Self Assessment Checklist for Veterinary Hospital Superintendents


Links to these documents are also available from the Hospital Licensing section of the website, under Apply for a hospital licence.

The application and plans are assessed by the Board and if suitable the hospital is given approval subject to inspection.  If not approved, it is possible for the applicant to attempt to address the issues identified and resubmit the application.

With some exceptions, the legislation does require that a veterinary practitioner or veterinary practitioners have a controlling interest in the licence which is defined as the capacity to determine the outcome of decisions about the financial and operating policies of the business. 

There is now a national register for business names and you are required to register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).  Please note that registering a business name does not give you exclusive rights over the use of that name.  When an application is submitted to ASIC for a veterinary hospital name the applicant will need to provide evidence that the premises have been approved for a licence by the Board. 

The Board has some powers regarding the naming of veterinary businesses and has developed a policy on Business Names for Veterinary Premises to assist veterinarians in complying with this aspect of veterinary practice legislation.


Buying a hospital

When buying a veterinary hospital the Board requires submission of an application to transfer the licence from the existing owners to the new owners.  All the existing owners with a controlling interest (veterinarians) and all the new owners with a controlling interest need to sign the form. 

If there is a change of name for the veterinary hospital then an Application to change the name of a veterinary hospital form will also need to be submitted. 

A nomination of a superintendent will most likely be required in association with a hospital transfer.

All the required forms can be found under Hospital Licensing and Transfer a hospital licence or from the Resources, Forms section of our website.


Selling a hospital

When selling a veterinary hospital the Board requires a transfer of hospital licence to be submitted and this needs to be signed by all the existing owners and all the new owners. 

Selling or transferring a hospital licence includes any change in the ownership or ownership structure of a hospital licence. For example, a change to members of a partnership, a change to percentage controlling interest in the licence, or a change from a partnership to a company structure.

Please remember that records of any consultation, procedure or treatment must be retained for at least 3 years after they are made.  Records would typically now belong to the new owners of the veterinary hospital.