RCVS clear docking vet of cover-up

Created: 30/05/2012

A VET who docked a litter of Rottweilers after the practice was banned has been cleared of a deliberate cover-up.
David Smith performed the procedure in March 2008 and was subsequently fined £2,000 at Folkestone’s Magistrates Court in December 2010.
But last week the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) cleared him of wrongdoing after hearing he mistakenly believed his actions were legal.   

Law enforcement

The hearing in central London was told he added the words ‘for law enforcement’ beside an entry about the docking procedure in one of the puppies’ paperwork. Vets are allowed to dock working dogs, including those used by the police and prison service.
But panel chairman Beverley Cottrell said: "The addition of the words did not contradict what had already been stated on the form. They confirmed Mr Smith’s misapprehension that the tail-docking had been legal.   
"They were not added with the intention of misleading a reader of the document.”
Mr Smith, director of Lakeview Veterinary Centre, in Deal, Kent, docked the three-day-old puppies while covering for a colleague at the Dover and Folkestone Quarantine Kennels, in Crete Road, Folkestone. He had been approached by one of his clients who told him the puppies were going to be used in a security services firm.
The hearing was told Mr Smith was unsure about the legality of docking and carried out research after the procedure took place contacted the RSPCA, the RCVS, Folkestone Police and DEFRA, as well as looking it up on the Kennel Club website. He had been told by the client the security firm was contracted by police forces, and believed the dogs were for security use. 
But Ms Cottrell said he should have made more of an effort to determine if his actions were legal.
"Mr Smith’s conduct fell short of that to be expected of a vet but does not consider that it fell far short of that to be expected of a member of the profession,” she said.
"It is the responsibility of every practising vet to ensure that tail docking is legal in each and every instance before carrying out the procedure,” she said. "If there is any doubt, then tail docking should not take place.”
The case against Mr Smith was dismissed.