Western University of Health Sciences, a private, non-profit academic

health center in Pomona, Calif., has sued the American Veterinary Medical

Association (AVMA), accusing it of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act.

The suit stems from the AVMA’s refusal to grant Western University the

first step toward accreditation of its planned College of Veterinary

Medicine.

The federal lawsuit claims the AVMA, the only recognized accrediting body

for veterinary education in the United States, has used its monopolistic

powers to effectively block Western University from opening a veterinary

school, thus preventing an exciting new educational model from competing

with existing veterinary medicine schools.

Western University has challenged the veterinary education establishment

by seeking to open an innovative college of veterinary medicine on its

Pomona campus that will train veterinarians more effectively and yet less

expensively than traditional veterinary schools do. The lawsuit was filed

in April, but the university delayed serving it on the AVMA until October

13 while it tried to overcome the accrediting body’s stated objections to

its proposal. Shirley D. Johnston, dean of the College of Veterinary

Medicine, said that when the AVMA refused earlier this month to reverse

its previous denials of the application, Western University decided it had

no alternative but to proceed with the suit.

“”We don’t want to sue the AVMA said Philip Pumerantz, PhD, Western

University president. “”We want to work with them to educate new

veterinarians. But the unreasonableness and intransigence of this

accrediting body and the secrecy with which they make decisions leaves us

no choice. It has been a most frustrating experience.””

In the suit, Western University contends that when the AVMA’s Council on

Education (AVMA/COE) twice reviewed and rejected its application for

a “”Letter of Reasonable Assurance”” – the first step toward accreditation –

it was not acting in an objective and unbiased way. The 27 existing

American colleges of veterinary medicine, as well as many of the nation’s

practicing veterinarians, desire to limit competition by controlling the

number of veterinary schools and practitioners in the market place, the

suit says.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, asks the court to

compel the AVMA to issue Reasonable Assurance and to apply its

accreditation policies and procedures to Western University in a fair and

unbiased manner. The university also seeks monetary damages.

Western University says in the suit that when it began the accreditation

process for its College of Veterinary Medicine two years ago, it did not

know that it was doomed from the outset because of an agreement among the

AVMA and existing veterinary colleges to prevent any new schools from

being accredited. In denying Western University’s request for a Letter of

Reasonable Assurance, the suit says, the AVMA/COE failed to: