"A registered veterinary surgeon shall not -
(a) use the title or description "specialist" or any abbreviation or derivative thereof or any title, description, words or letters implying, or capable of being understood as implying, that the veterinary surgeon is a specialist in a branch of veterinary science:
(b) advertise or hold out that the veterinary surgeon is a specialist in a branch of veterinary science,
unless the veterinary surgeon is registered under this Act as a specialist in that branch"
Section 38 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act (NSW) 1986.
The above requirements relate to Veterinary Surgeons throughout Australia. No Veterinary Surgeon may claim to be a specialist in any veterinary field unless he is registered as such with his state board.
Specialist registration has very stringent requirements - both to protect the reputation of veterinary science and also clients. As such there are comparatively few specialist veterinary surgeons - but then by comparison there are very few medical specialists in relation to the general practitioner population. The title specialist indicates a professional with outstanding knowledge, experience and skill in their chosen field. To achieve actual "specialist" recognition veterinary surgeons must demonstrate their superior knowledge and achievements; such could include post graduate qualifications and several years practical experience. If you have any doubt about the actual status of a Veterinary Surgeon ask to see his "Specialist" registration - it is sure to be displayed with prominent pride if possessed.
It is becoming common practice for registered specialists to ask for a referral from your usual Veterinary Surgeon; however, in a few cases this may not be necessary. As a specialist a Vet may not wish to dedicate time to treating minor or simple cases that do not actually fall within his sphere of study and that is why many ask that your regular Veterinary Surgeon examines the dog first and eliminates any such problems before consulting the specialist.
Not all states and territories have registered Specialist Veterinary Surgeons - their populations do not warrant such. Those areas without Specialists currently are Tasmania, ACT, and Northern Territory.