An equine vet has been suspended from practising for two months for falsifying a horse’s vaccination records.
The incident happened at Ascot sales in October 2014.
Warwickshire-based vet Elizabeth Gatehouse spoke to an on-duty vet, who was checking vaccinations in horses’ passports, over the phone and told her she had given the horse in question its flu and tetanus inoculations, when in fact she had not. She later amended the horse’s vaccination records to support her claim.
The incident was reported by Ms Gatehouse’s former partner, who was presenting the horse at the sales.
He had called Ms Gatehouse from Ascot, telling her the horse was vaccinated. But on checking her records and spotting the omission, she was too afraid of his reaction to call him back.
Ms Gatehouse admitted two charges at a hearing by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ (RCVS) disciplinary committee on 10-11 October.
These were that on 7 October, 2014, she inaccurately told a vet that she had given a horse a flu and tetanus jab between 2 October 2013 and 7 October 2014.
The second was that she dishonestly made a false entry into the same horse’s vaccination records to cover her tracks.
Ms Gatehouse also admitted she was guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect in relation to the second charge.
The committee found her guilty of disgraceful conduct in relation to the first charge.
Ms Gatehouse stated she believed at the time that the horse had been vaccinated, but on checking the records she saw there was no tick against that entry.
“Having discovered the horse had not been vaccinated, she was stressed and she panicked,” said a statement from the hearing.
Ms Gatehouse concluded her evidence by stating there was no prospect of her doing this again.
The committee found her falsehood was not premeditated and the decision was the result of “ungoverned panic”.
However, by claiming the horse was vaccinated and not taking the necessary steps to confirm this, she “failed to put animal welfare first” and potentially jeopardised the position of the vet she spoke to on the phone.
In mitigation, the committee heard Ms Gatehouse had practised for 22 years without any untoward conduct.
Three witnesses also attested to her being an honest and trustworthy practitioner and that she was in a relationship with the complainant until June 2014, which led her to be reluctant to contact him to correct her initial confirmation.
“The committee has considered that it is material to have regard to the general emotional state to which the respondent was reduced by the controlling and debilitating conduct of her then partner when they were living together and the consequential loss of self-esteem and ability to stand up to him and his demands,” said committee chairman Stuart Drummond.
“The deleterious effect of an abusive relationship lingers after such a relationship ends.
“Taking into account this knowledge, the committee considers that the period of suspension that would, in other circumstances, be entirely merited, can properly be reduced in this instance.
“[This is] to reflect the fact that this veterinary surgeon would not have acted as she did during this period but for the fact that her judgement was adversely affected by her experience at the hands of her then former partner.”
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