The Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons finds no serious professional misconduct

Author: JP McDowell and James Roddy

June 13, 2018

A hearing took place earlier this year before the Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. The hearing related to a veterinary surgeon based in the UK and registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

The Disciplinary Committee is the College’s equivalent of a court where charges are heard against a veterinary surgeon alleging that he or she is guilty of serious professional misconduct or that he or she is unfit to practise because of a criminal conviction.

The hearing concerned four charges against a veterinary surgeon which related to his involvement in and dealings with the owner and potential buyers of a horse.

The first charge that the veterinary surgeon faced was that on 5 April 2016, having examined the horse on behalf of his owner, the veterinary surgeon gave an opinion to the potential buyers but failed to make it clear that he had not undertaken a pre-purchase examination.

The second charge was that, on or about 4 July 2016, during a telephone conversation with the buyer, the veterinary surgeon was dishonest and failed to provide clear and accurate information because he told the buyers that he had only been asked to trot the horse to check he was sound when he had, in fact, carried out a more substantial examination.

The third charge was that between 5 April 2016 and 27 February 2017, the veterinary surgeon offered to either the owner or the buyer, or both, that he would prepare a veterinary insurance certificate in relation to the horse when he knew he did not have sufficient records to prepare such a veterinary insurance certificate, such as the microchip or passport number.

The fourth charge was that, between 26 July 2016 and 27 February 2017, the veterinary surgeon failed to respond adequately to communications from the buyers about the horse.

Having heard evidence from the veterinary surgeon the buyer and a number of other witnesses the Committee found that the veterinary surgeon had not in fact carried out a pre-purchase examination and referred to guidance from the British Equine Veterinary Association which identified that pre-purchase examinations are carried out on behalf of buyers. And in this case the veterinary surgeon had undertaken an examination on behalf of the owner. Therefore, the Committee did not find that the veterinary surgeon had failed to explain the pre-purchase examination process to the potential buyers.

However, the Committee did find that the veterinary surgeon had failed to declare that he had a conflict of interest in regard to the horse’s owner and was of the view that the veterinary surgeon should have declared to the buyer that he had been acting on behalf of the owner and therefore was not a neutral party in the potential sale.

The Committee found all aspects of the second charge not proven, on the basis that they were not satisfied so as to be sure that the veterinary surgeon had told the potential buyers that he had only been asked to trot the horse and check that the horse was sound.

The Committee found all aspects of the third charge proven on the basis that, the veterinary surgeon admitted that he did not have the sufficient records to prepare a veterinary insurance certificate.

The Committee found that the fourth charge was not proven on the basis that the buyers were not clients. The Committee therefore concluded that the veterinary surgeon had no obligation to respond to them and that the veterinary surgeon could not do so in order to protect the confidentiality of his client.

The Committee then determined that the charges found proven, when taken individually or in combination, did not amount to serious professional misconduct.

The Chair of the Committee noted the following mitigating factors which informed the Committee’s decision:

  • the circumstances of the incident,
  • the fact that there was no premeditation,
  • the fact that the veterinary practitioner was requested by his client to advance an opinion to the buyers concerning the horse and that his ill judgement was on the spur of the moment,
  • the fact that he had no financial gain.

A copy of the Committee’s decision can be accessed here.

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