Veterinary Defence 
South Africa

In a survey conducted some years ago, complaints made to veterinary medical boards was cited as the most stressful event in veterinary practice. There is no doubt that receipt of a notification from a veterinary board is an intensely stressful and life-changing event for most veterinarians. We have seen too many veterinarians facing board action go into depression, suicide or leave the profession. Board actions place the right to practice in jeopardy and challenge your very existence as a veterinarian. When a board action goes bad, the consequences can be devastating for the veterinarian.

We are approached for help all too often by veterinarians who are not VDA members, who are soon to face an administrative hearing or trial, or who have already had their registration suspended or revoked. These are often veterinarians who paid for malpractice defence insurance cover, had a good case and ought to have been exonerated, but have been the victims of incompetent attorneys appointed by their insurance company to defend them. As much as we would like to help them, their case has been so badly presented and the damage so extensive that there is little we can do for them.

The effective management of registration defence starts with THE EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT OF INCIDENTS. If the incident was not effectively managed in the first place, then the chances of a successful later defence of your registration are diminished. If you made an error at the time of the incident, the time to fix the error (and/or compensate the owner) is at that time. Veterinarians who do not pay proper attention to owner grievances at the time may not be able to recover from a challenge to their licence.

The next step in the effective management of registration defence is to take advantage of the VDA’s extensive experience in investigating cases and formulating responses to the owner’s complaints. Veterinarians are not lawyers and most lawyers are not competent to formulate responses for veterinarians. It takes much more than just employing a lawyer. Would you, knowing nothing about law, write a response on behalf of a lawyer to the Law Society? Then surely it would be absurd for you to rely on a lawyer, who knows nothing about veterinary medicine, to write your response to the SAVC.

The VDA provides a full service Veterinary Board defence program, including compiling the member’s defence theme and responses to the allegations as well as all correspondence with the council, and arranges expert witnesses and legal representation for hearings and trials.