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Knepp Estate, longhorn herd  read more...
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Shropshire Vet Suspended for Dishonest TB Certification

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On 15 March 2100 the Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) suspended from the Register for ten months a veterinary surgeon found to have dishonestly certified that he carried out bovine tuberculosis (TB) testing and measured and recorded the test reactions of 248 cattle, when in fact he knew he had not tested all the animals. The RCVS is the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons in the UK and deals with issues of professional misconduct, maintaining the register of veterinary surgeons eligible to practise in the UK and assuring standards of veterinary education.

At the start of the two-day hearing, John Owen-Thomas of Teme Veterinary Practice, Ludlow, Shropshire, admitted that in September 2009 he had dishonestly certified that all the cattle on a farm had been tested for TB when he knew he had not tested all of them. He also admitted failing adequately to identify the cattle he had tested, failing to measure the skin-folds of all the animals, and to entering false information into the national cattle-tracing recording system about the reaction measurements he had purportedly taken.

The facts of the case, accepted by Mr Owen-Thomas, were that whilst working as an Official Veterinarian (OV) for Animal Health, an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, he had visited a farm to carry out TB testing on 248 cattle, following the discovery of TB reactors in the herd.

Mr Owen-Thomas did not, however, check the animals' ear-tag numbers or make any notes about the individual animals he was testing, as required by Animal Health procedures. When subsequently checking for test reactions, he only measured cattle on whose necks he felt a lump, when he should have checked them all; there were also a number of animals which were not tested. Despite this, skin thickness measurements were entered into the records for all 248 animals. The matter came to light during a farm visit from Animal Health after a chance conversation with the farmer. Mr Owen then admitted he had not tested all the cattle as recorded, and was suspended from OV work.

"On previous occasions the Committee has emphasised the importance of the integrity of the certification process," said Beverley Cottrell, chairing the Committee. "The validity of any certificate is an integral part of the system relating to disease control and the maintenance of public health. It is essential that all particulars concerning the animal are true and that all requirements have been complied with." The Committee also considered that, as an OV, Mr Owen-Thomas was in a position of trust and responsibility which he failed adequately to discharge, particularly as there had been TB in the herd. That Mr Owen-Thomas undermined procedures in place to prevent the spread of disease was a further aggravating factor.

"However, the Committee considers that Mr Owen-Thomas's prompt admissions demonstrate insight into the unacceptable nature of his actions," said Mrs Cottrell, noting as mitigating factors the attestations from farming clients as to his skill and dedication to his work, and that the charge related to a single farm visit. "False certification will inevitably lead to consideration of the removal of a Member's name from the Register ['striking off']," she continued. "However, the Committee has concluded that in this case the removal of Mr Owen-Thomas's name from the Register is neither necessary in the public interest, nor necessary to protect the welfare of animals, nor is proportionate."

The Committee directed that Mr Owen-Thomas's name be suspended from the Register for a period of ten months. For full details of this case see http://www.rcvs.org.uk/document-library/owen-thomas-2011-decision/

RCVS disciplinary powers are exercised through the Preliminary Investigation and Disciplinary Committees, established in accordance with Schedule 2 to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (the 1966 Act). The RCVS has authority to deal with three types of case:

a) Fraudulent registration

b) Criminal convictions

c) Allegations of disgraceful professional conduct

The Disciplinary Committee is a constituted judicial tribunal under the 1966 Act and follows rules of evidence similar to those used in a court of law.

The burden of proving an allegation falls upon the RCVS, and the RCVS must prove to the standard that the Committee is sure.

A respondent veterinary surgeon may appeal a Disciplinary Committee decision to the Privy Council within 28 days of the date of the decision. If no appeal is received, the Committee's judgment takes effect after this period.

Further information, including the original charges against Mr Owen-Thomas and the Committee's findings and decision, can be found at http://www.rcvs.org.uk/document-library/owen-thomas-2011-decision/

For more information contact: Ian Holloway, +44(0)20-7202-0727 i.holloway@rcvs.org.uk

Taken from the Press Release LONDON, March 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- distributed by PR Newswire on behalf of Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Also see websites http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/cgi/news/release?id=315187 and http://pr-usa.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=661161&Itemid=29

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