Issue 50 - Complaints Committee Report


The Board has reviewed and determined 24 complaints made against veterinarians between November 2018 and April 2019.  Of these, 14 complaints were dismissed, 1 complaint was dismissed with a recommendation, 7 veterinarians were found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and cautioned, 1 veterinarian was found guilty of professional misconduct and reprimanded.

Two complaints were withdrawn after the veterinarian’s response to the complaint was received by the complainant and the complainant withdrew the complaint. 



Unsatisfactory professional conduct

One veterinarian was cautioned and fined after being found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct in breach of Veterinary Practice Act 2003 (s 35(k)) when failing to investigate the extent of injuries in a kitten that had suffered multiple trauma,  providing treatment which was not in accordance with current standards, and failing to utilise the skills of colleagues by consultation or referral. The veterinarian was required to provide validation of any continuing professional development undertaken in the previous 3 years so that the Board could review these activities and provide specific recommendations for continuing education activities which may assist the veterinarian in managing similar cases in the future. 

A second veterinarian was cautioned and fined after demonstrating a lack of skill, judgment and care in the dental treatment given to a dog and by failing to provide necessary post-operative discharge instructions. The procedure undertaken in the dog’s treatment was one that is not recommended and is known to be associated with a higher risk of complication. The veterinarian also failed to keep medical records in sufficient detail to enable another veterinary practitioner to continue the dog’s treatment.

A third veterinarian cautioned and fined after the ovariohysterectomy that he performed in a cat was incomplete and demonstrated a lack of skill, judgment or care. A caution and fine was imposed.

Two veterinarians in one veterinary hospital were cautioned and fined after treating and rehoming two cats where the clients of both cats had requested euthanasia.  The failure to euthanase these animals when requested was improper.  Although the actions were made to save the animals’ lives and the treatment given to the cats was appropriate for the conditions for which they presented, no consent for this treatment had been given and the clients were deceived as they were led to believe that their cats had been euthanased. The animal’s medical records were also falsified to maintain this deception. Both veterinarians apologised sincerely for their actions and advised that they would not be tempted to repeat this behaviour.

A sixth veterinarian was cautioned after failing to obtain informed consent from a client prior to amputating part of a dog’s tail when removing a subcutaneous cyst. No attempt had been made by the veterinarian to contact the client to discuss the planned extent of treatment after the dog’s tail had been examined under general anaesthesia. Where practical and before providing veterinary services, the client must be informed of the likely extent and outcome of any treatment or procedure.

One veterinarian was found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and cautioned for not abiding by conditions placed on his registration.


Professional misconduct

A veterinarian was reprimanded and fined  after supplying restricted substances to cattle that he had not physically examined or had under his direct care in breach of the Veterinary practitioners code of professional conduct (Code) (cl 20 (1)(a)), and failing to ensure a detailed record of any consultation, procedure or treatment was made in accordance with the Code (cl 15) over the previous 3 years.

The Code (cl 20 (1)(a)), requires that a veterinary practitioner may supply a restricted substance only to a person responsible for the care of an animal that the veterinary practitioner has physically examined or has under his or her direct care and only in respect of that animal. The veterinarian in this complaint had not visited the property where restricted substances had been supplied within the previous 3 years and had not physically examined any animals on the property during this time and, as such, there was no evidence that these animals were under his direct care.

Veterinary herd consultants are expected to record any observations made on farm visits. Records of telephone or farm discussions must be kept and records of any drugs supplied must include the product dispensed, date, amount dispensed, indication for use, instructions for use and withholding period applicable. The veterinarian failed to label the medication dispensed in accordance with poisons and therapeutic goods legislation which is considered not in accordance with the current standards of (veterinary) practice and was therefore in breach of the Code (cl 4).


Dismissed Complaint with a recommendation

Of the complaints that were dismissed in this reporting period, as the result of one complaint investigation a recommendation was made to one veterinarian. The veterinarian was advised to review his veterinary practice’s discharge procedures to improve client communication and to note any client communication in medical records. This veterinarian was also advised, as the superintendent of the veterinary practice, to ensure that all veterinarians working within the practice list all medication and doses administered in medical records.


Increase in complaint numbers

The number of complaints received by the board has steadily increased over the last few years. The reasons for this may be the result of increased numbers of veterinarians and companion animals being treated, societal attitudes, increased expectations of clients and the higher level of veterinary care that is expected and often provided which can involve considerable expense. 

Medical records are the primary source of information regarding an animal’s care if a complaint against a veterinarian is investigated. Medical records should be made as soon as practicable.  Medical records should also include a record of client communications and the substance of those communications.

The Board requires that any alteration or addition to a medical record should be identified as to when that addition or alteration is made.  An audit of any medical record with respect to alterations and additions may be requested in the investigation of a complaint.