Mr Doherty was convicted, with others (who were also convicted), in a conspiracy to deceive members of the public by passing off puppies that had been bred in puppy farms as being the home-bred offspring of domestic pets living in family homes.
Mr Doherty’s role was that he provided vaccinations and vaccination/health check cards which, the court found, materially contributed to the impression that the puppies had been home-bred locally and were in good health.
Mr Doherty was initially convicted of this offence, resulting in eight months’ imprisonment in April 2018.
However, he subsequently appealed the conviction, which was quashed and resulted in a retrial.
On retrial, Mr Doherty was convicted and sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, 150 hours community service and a £100 victim surcharge.
When deciding on the sanction, the Disciplinary Committee considered that a period of suspension would be sufficient to meet the public interest.
In reaching this conclusion, the Committee took into account that Mr Doherty had, as part of his original conviction, already served eight months in prison before the original conviction was quashed and replaced, on retrial, with a suspended sentence.
He had therefore already, in effect, had a period of suspension from practice, which meant that the deterrent factor in a sanction of suspension had been partially met.
In reaching its decision, the Committee also took into account the circumstances of this case and, in particular, the view of the court that Mr Doherty had been motivated solely by animal welfare concerns and not financial gain, and that it was this overriding concern that had allowed others to exploit his willingness to continue to vaccinate puppies despite their source.
There were no concerns as to Mr Doherty’s skill or dedication as a veterinary surgeon and with regard to the single issue of the appropriate vaccination of puppies and their onward sale, the Committee noted the changes that Mr Doherty had made to his practice procedures to avoid any similar problems occurring in the future.
The full decision and findings from the hearing can be found at www.rcvs.org.uk/disciplinary
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I’m sorry but 1 month is nowhere near enough.
When I first read this earlier in the year I wondered if there was more to the tale - that the vet was unscrupulous, underhand, "on the take", or in the back pocket of the breeders. However, I see that the story has made its way into the VDS newsletter, and I cannot be the only one to be a little worried about the comments made by the VDS. Both they and the defending QC in the case were surprised at the verdict, and their conclusions and warnings to us all could be quite serious. I've lifted a couple of quotes but the general tone is one of surprise at the conclusions reached in the trial.
"The reliance, in this trial, on a vaccination card being not only a certificate of health of a particular puppy, but also a validation of the honesty and integrity of its owner/keeper was troubling. It suggests members may have to go further to protect themselves, especially if in any way suspicious about a client’s activities or motives."
"We consider it would be a significant problem for the profession if a vaccination card is to be seen as evidence of the legitimacy of the details of a pup’s identity and background, when in reality, it is simply a record that a vaccination has been administered and the pup is in good health on the day of its examination. Furthermore, unless a microchip number is recorded, it cannot be definitively related to a particular puppy in any event."
Where will this end up? Its perfectly legal to vaccinate an unchipped puppy at six weeks of age (as the breeder's mate who's been on a course is going to chip them before 8 weeks of age for half our price and enter it on one of the dodgy databases), but should we be doing it now? We've all been to a run-down equine yard where things aren't quite of the standard of Sheik Mansoor's stables, so should we refuse to vaccinate a horse which may be sold on? Are we now the arbiters of owner's honesty and integrity and should now refuse treatment to anyone who we think is a "wrong 'un". I for one have seen plenty of folk from the other side of the tracks who are, when it comes to their animals, model clients, and equally upstanding members of society who are terrible pet owners. Who are the better clients?
I think this has slipped under the radar a bit, but reading the VDS advice closely suggests that this could become more and more of an issue to all of us. Just something else to keep us awake at night!!!
Publishing Editor: Arlo Guthrie
Clinical Editor: Alasdair Hotston Moore MA VetMB CertSAC CertVR CertSAS FRCVS
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