There's nothing like the peace of mind in knowing that you have found the right vet for your animal, that they'll be in safe hands when they're sick. As such, it's important to research the best you can find from the professional registered vets in the UK and Ireland.
This article will help you do just that and also provide answers for what to do if a vet makes a mistake with your pet and you have to seek out legal advice.
Who regulates vets in the UK?
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is the professional regulator for vets in the UK and the Republic of Ireland (ROI). They have a ‘Find a registered Vet Surgeon’ area on their website (www.rcvs.org.uk), so you can check if a vet is registered and legally allowed to treat your pet. Remember, they may be registered under a different professional surname if they are married. If you are in doubt, you can call them to request more information about a vet or practice.
Do vets make mistakes?
Vets are human beings, so will inevitably make mistakes from time to time. It is important to recognise mistakes will happen and that they are not intentional, even when you are upset by the effect the mistake may have had on you or your pet. A vet should be willing to discuss the mistake openly and explain fully, agreeing on the best course of action to mitigate the effects of any mistakes. Mistakes are not negligence. Negligence is where the standard of care falls below what would be expected from a reasonably competent vet. If you suspect negligence, you should follow the complaints procedure below.
Can you complain about a vet?
You can complain about a vet in a number of ways. Initially, talking to the vet themselves may help you resolve the issue. If not, speak to the line manager in their practice. If your complaint is still not resolved, the Vet Client Mediation Service (VCMS) is a voluntary, independent and free mediation service for clients whose animals have received veterinary care and for the veterinary professionals providing that care. VCMS works with both parties to try to reach a solution that is acceptable to both the client and veterinary professional. If your complaint is still not satisfactorily resolved, you can complain to the RCVS.
Can I sue my vet in the UK?
Financial claims for negligence may be resolved between you and the vet practice directly, sometimes with the involvement of the vet’s professional indemnity insurers. If not, the claim may be taken to the civil courts, where any facts in dispute are decided by the court on the ‘balance of probabilities’. The civil courts may award compensation or damages. If you think a vet has been negligent and you want to sue for damages, you should speak to your solicitor for advice.
How do I report a vet for malpractice in the UK?
The RCVS is the professional regulator for vets in the UK. You should report suspected malpractice to the RCVS through their complaints procedure. Details can be found on their website or you can telephone them.
How do I file a claim against a vet?
You can file a claim against a vet with your solicitor, if you are unable to resolve your complaint with the vet practice directly.
Can you sue someone for killing your dog?
You can file a civil claim against someone who has deliberately killed your dog without your consent, or done so inhumanely (where your dog suffered unnecessarily). You should speak to your solicitor about the likelihood of a claim being successful. They may take into account the financial loss of a high-value breeding, competition or show dog. They may also include the emotional and life impact of the loss to you and your family, e.g. if your dog was a therapy or Guide Dog.
There are circumstances where a farmer may legally shoot your dog, if it is worrying or injuring their livestock and they are unable to locate the person responsible for the dog, or stop the dog in any other way. The law is very strict and you should contact the police, if you are unsure. So always keep your dog on a lead and under control near livestock.
Even if you do not sue someone for killing your dog, you should report them to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) or the police, as this is an illegal act of animal cruelty. It can be punishable with a fine and/or a prison sentence.