RCVS news: disciplinary committee suspends Cambridgeshire-based vet for dishonesty around horse export documentation - Veterinary Practice
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RCVS news: disciplinary committee suspends Cambridgeshire-based vet for dishonesty around horse export documentation

The committee had concluded that the respondent was unlikely to repeat similar behaviour

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The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Disciplinary Committee has ordered that a Cambridgeshire-based veterinary surgeon be suspended from the register for six months for dishonestly providing false information related to the export of horses.

Dr Nebojsa Petrovic appeared before the committee with a total of eight charges against him, although one of these charges (Charge 4) was withdrawn at the start of the hearing. The full charges can be found in the documentation for the hearing on the disciplinary website.

At the outset of the hearing, Dr Petrovic admitted a number of the facts alleged in the charges against him, including:

  • Charge 1 – on 8 November 2021, he falsely represented to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) that the blood samples he submitted in respect of four horses were from the same horses as the samples he submitted on 1 November 2021
  • Charge 2 – on or around 12 November 2021, he told APHA’s Veterinary Head of Border Control that he had checked the microchips and/or passports of the four horses when he hadn’t done so
  • Charge 3 – on or around 16 November 2021, he signed export health certificates for the four horses, in which it was stated that the blood samples taken from these horses on 29 October 2021 had been submitted to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency laboratory, Weybridge, with a negative result for Leptospirosis when in fact those samples had tested positive
  • Charge 5 – he failed to send the APHA’s Centre for International Trade, within seven days of signing, certified copies of the export health certificates
  • Charge 7 – on or around 13 January 2022, he told an APHA officer that he was satisfied that he had properly identified the horses for which you had submitted the two samples when he had not done so
  • Charge 8c – he risked undermining government procedures designed to promote animal health and international relations in relation to the charges he admitted
  • Charge 9 – between 22 February 2021 and 21 February 2022, he failed to have in place any or any adequate Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII)

Dr Petrovic was at the time of all the allegations carrying his duties as an official veterinarian on behalf of the APHA, denied:

  • Charge 6 – between 12 November 2021 and 16 November 2021, he failed to take sufficient steps to prevent the four horses from being exported to Serbia when he had been informed that there were concerns and/or doubts about whether those horses had tested negative for Leptospirosis; and he also denied
  • Charge 8 – in relation to the allegations relating to his submitting the blood samples to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency on 8 November 2021, certification of the export health certificates on 16 November 2021 and his subsequent conversations with members of APHA staff regarding both sets of documentation he had acted in a misleading (Charge 8a) and/or dishonest (Charge 8b) way

The committee considered evidence presented by the college including hearing from APHA staff witnesses called by the college and also hearing from a witness and character evidence presented by Dr Petrovic. Dr Petrovic also gave evidence to the committee. It found most charges proven with the exception of Charge 6 and also found that Dr Petrovic had not acted dishonestly in submitting the blood samples or certifying the EHC’s as alleged in charges 1 and 3.

The committee concluded that Dr Petrovic had acted in a dishonest and misleading way in his conversations with the APHA staff as detailed in charges 2 and 7.

The committee then considered whether the individual proven charges amounted to serious professional misconduct, determining that, with the exception of charges 3 and 5, all proven charges amounted to disgraceful conduct.

Paul Morris, chairing the committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “In the committee’s judgement, the respondent’s position as an official veterinarian also meant that he had a responsibility to ensure that the trust which was delegated to him was not breached. In his role, the respondent was acting in a position of trust as a representative of the government, and the committee found that he had breached that trust. It took these matters into account when determining that the respondent’s behaviour cumulatively amounted to disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.”

Regarding the appropriate and proportionate sanction for Dr Petrovic, the committee considered his request that it consider suspension, rather than removal, from the register.

In terms of aggravating factors – the committee found that Dr Petrovic had acted without integrity, recklessly and without regard for the APHA’s systems relating to the export of animals.

In mitigation, it took into account; the fact that no animal was harmed by his conduct, albeit there was risk of harm; his long and unblemished career in the UK since 1994; admissions he had made to the APHA and Disciplinary Committee at the first day of the hearing; had remediated his lack of professional indemnity insurance by putting in place a retrospective policy; the significant amount of time that had elapsed since the conduct; and six positive character references from experienced fellow veterinary surgeons who held him in high regard.

Paul Morris added: “The committee took into account that the respondent had continued to work as a veterinary surgeon with no subsequent complaints and that he had a previous long and unblemished record and there was support by several positive character references. The committee also took into consideration the pressures of Brexit and the pandemic which the respondent had faced at the time but which were unlikely to occur again.

“The committee had concluded that the respondent was unlikely to repeat similar behaviour or to pose a risk to animals, particularly because he was no longer involved in certifying animals for export. Furthermore, his admissions to most of the matters it had found proved that he had some insight. The committee was also satisfied that the respondent had a genuine concern for the welfare of animals and it noted that the respondent did not require any further training to continue in practice as a veterinary surgeon.

“The committee, therefore, concluded that a suspension from the register was the proportionate sanction in this case taking into account the seriousness of the conduct it had found proved but also all of the mitigating factors.”

The committee recommended that Dr Petrovic be suspended for six months to reflect the seriousness of the conduct and the damage it could do to public confidence in the profession while meeting the public interest and sending a clear message of deterrence.

The full documentation for the hearing can be found on the RCVS website.

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