College of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO) Defence Lawyers

Veterinarians, like many professionals in Canada, must be adequately educated, licensed and regulated by the province in which they practice. Each province regulates their professionals in their own way. Each province in Canada is responsible for regulating the professionals working within that province. In Ontario, the College of Veterinarians of Ontario is responsible for regulating the practice of veterinary medicine. The goal of the College of Veterinarians of Ontario is to ensure all veterinarians are held to the highest professional standards of knowledge and integrity to ensure the highest quality of care. The College of Veterinarians of Ontario is responsible for enforcing the Veterinarians Act 1990, which is discussed in more detail below.

They ensure that veterinarians have received the proper education from an accredited institution prior to beginning practice, that practicing members keep up to date with any necessary on-going education and that all members abide by all of the regulations laid out in the Veterinarians Act 1990. The main goal is to protect the public from professional misconduct. As such, the College of Veterinarians of Ontario also accepts formal complaints regarding licensed members and investigates as necessary. If professional misconduct or unethical behaviour is discovered, the College of Veterinarians of Ontario will be the regulating body responsible for punishing the offending doctor.

Veterinarians in Ontario are regulated by the Veterinarians Act 1990 which is enforced by College of Veterinarians of Ontario. This statute outlines various regulations that apply to the practice of veterinary medicine including regulations surrounding the organization of professional veterinary corporations, registration of such corporations, professional and fiduciary obligations to clients, quality assurance regulations for veterinary facilities, accreditation regulations, regulations surrounding professional misconduct and complaints and regulations surrounding the discipline of veterinarians who have been found to have violated the Act.

In addition, the Veterinarians Act 1990 also outlines the registration regulations associated with becoming a licensed veterinarian in Ontario. This section mainly focuses on the licensing, registration and academic aspects of the veterinary medical profession. It begins by outlining the general conditions and requirements that must be met prior to an individual applying for their veterinary license. The Act then goes on to outline various exceptions to being licensed, such as situations where an individual is rendering emergency aid to a sick or injured animal.

Part two of the Veterinarians Act 1990 contains detailed regulations surrounding professional misconduct. This Act lists enumerated acts or omissions that have been deemed professional misconduct by College of Veterinarians of Ontario. Some examples include; failing to maintain the standard of practice of the profession, failing to fulfill the terms of an agreement with a client, revealing confidential information about a client to a third party, providing or attempting to provide services that are not needed, making misrepresentations to a client or prospective client, charging a fee for a service that was not performed, failing to issue a receipt to clients with an itemized list of services rendered and their respective costs, having a conflict of interest, abusing a client verbally, physically, sexually or emotionally and failing to respond appropriately or within a reasonable time to a written inquiry from the College.

Legal Information

Frequently Asked Questions

The Complaint Process
What Happens when a Complaint is Filed?
What Penalties may Veterinarians Face as a Result of a Finding of Professional Misconduct?
How to Defend a Formal Complaint made to the College of Veterinarians of Ontario?

The Complaint Process

Veterinarians, like any professional, owe a duty of care to their patients.  Failure to discharge this duty of care may result in a formal complaint being filed with the College of Veterinarians of Ontario against the practicing veterinarian. Virtually any member of the public can file a formal complaint against a veterinarian if they believe the veterinarian has acted improperly in their practice. Formal complaints can be filed directly with the College of Veterinarians of Ontario’s Principal, Investigations and Resolution department. The complaint must be submitted in writing or using audio or visual recording and must include the following information; a concise statement outlining the complaint with as much detail as possible, the full legal name and address of the veterinarian or veterinarian facility(ies) as well as any other veterinarians, health care professionals or other persons who may have relevant information and the contact information of the complainant. There is no time limit on when a complaint can be filed.

What Happens when a Complaint is Filed?

Once a complaint has been received by College of Veterinarians of Ontario, the College will notify the impugned Veterinarian and provide them with a copy of the complaint. The complainant will also be provided with a copy of the complaint to confirm that it has been received by the College. The veterinarian will be given the opportunity to submit a written response to the complaint and may also provide the College with supporting documents including but not limited to relevant medical reports, x-rays, lab reports and logs. A copy of the veterinarian’s response to the allegations will then be sent to the complainant, and the complainant will be given an opportunity to reply to the veterinarian’s explanation. Once all of the documentation and replies have been received by the College, the College will review the material and determine how to proceed. In less serious situations, the College may be able to resolve the issue through mediation. If the matter cannot be resolved through mediation, the College will refer it to the Complaints Committee for further review.

The Complaints Committee consists of up to ten members including one member of the public that is appointed by the Provincial government and up to nine veterinarians. The Complaints Committee will review all of the materials provided to them and then determine how to proceed. The Committee may decide to; take no further action and close the file, view the complaint as vexatious, frivolous, an abuse of process or otherwise made in bad faith, provide the member with advice and/or additional education or refer the complaint to the Discipline Committee for further review. A complaint will be forwarded to the Discipline Committee where the Complaints Committee believes that professional misconduct has occurred.

Veterinarians may appeal the decision of the Complaints Committee in all situations except cases referred to the Discipline Committee. Additionally, both the complainant and the impugned veterinarian may apply to the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board of Ontario for an arms length review of the Complaints Committees decision. The Health Professions Appeal and Review Board will then determine whether or not the Complaint Committees decision was adequate. Should the Review Board agree with the Committee’s decision, they will confirm it. If the Review Board disagrees with the Committee’s decision, they may return the matter to the Committee for reconsideration and provide the Committee with recommendations if necessary. It should be noted that neither the Complaint’s Committee nor the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board has the authority to award damages or any other monetary compensation to a complainant.

What Penalties may Veterinarians Face as a Result of a Finding of Professional Misconduct?

As noted above, in cases where the Complaints Committee believes that professional misconduct has occurred, they will refer the matter to the Discipline Committee for further review. Both the Complaints Committee and the Executive may direct the Discipline Committee to review a complaint. When the Discipline Committee is directed to review a complaint, a discipline hearing will be scheduled. A discipline hearing will be presided over by a three- or five-member panel with at least one public member. Such hearings are generally open to the public but can be held in private if necessary.

The outcome of a discipline hearing can vary significantly from case-to-case and are decided on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, the Committee will determine at the hearing that no misconduct has occurred, and the file will be closed without consequence. In other situations, the Committee may determine that some misconduct has occurred and may caution the member and provide them with advice on how to better handle their practice in the future. In more serious cases where the Committee determines that serious misconduct has occurred, the Committee may decide to suspend or terminate the members license.

It is important to note that a finding of professional misconduct can have very serious implications on a veterinarian’s ability to practice. Once a member becomes aware that a complaint has been filed, they are advised to contact qualified legal counsel right away. Our Firm can help guide you through this process to ensure you secure the best possible outcome in your case.

How to Defend a Formal Complaint made to the College of Veterinarians of Ontario

As with any legal matter, the best defence will depend largely on the allegations being made and the facts surrounding the case. It is important to contact qualified legal counsel immediately upon receiving notice that a formal complaint has been filed. In some cases, the allegations against the veterinarian will be unfounded, or will not amount to professional misconduct. In these situations, the veterinarian may simply state that they have not violated any of the rules or regulations surrounding the proper practice of veterinary medicine in Ontario. In situations where a more substantive response is required, a common way to defend a professional misconduct allegation is to argue that the veterinarian did not deviate from the applicable standard of care and that by doing so they sufficiently discharged their duty of care to the patient. This essentially means that the veterinarian did everything that was necessary and appropriate in the circumstances and as a result are not responsible for any negative outcome. In any case, the best plan of defence is to contact qualified legal counsel as soon as possible and allow them to assist in drafting the response to the complaint. Our Firm can help you draft a response to ensure all aspects of the complaint are addressed appropriately and in full.

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