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Practicing Veterinarian Medicine  Without a Licence and Causing Distress

self defence

I recently represented a young woman charged under section 2 of the Veterinary Profession Act as well as causing or allowing an animal to remain in distress contrary to section 2 of the Animal Protection Act.

My client found her animal to be in distress in the summer of 2020. This animal had previously had a medical issue that required veterinarian intervention. She took her animal to her known and trusted veterinarian clinic and the medical issue was resolved. My client has had animals and has been responsible for animals for the past 30 years. She is a breeder and has had training on how to administer certain medications at home. She has also been trained over the years on how to administer fluids by way of an injection under the skin when required.

In the summer of 2020, most if not all veterinary clinics had closed-door protocols in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic. My client found her animal in distress in the early evening. She immediately called her known and trusted veterinary clinic. She was not able to connect with anyone and there was no way to leave a message. She continuously called until she connected with a human about two hours after her discovery. In the meantime, she took certain actions. She gave the animal pain medication; she gave the animal a small amount of fluid by injection as she had been trained in the past as well, she withdrew a small amount of fluid in order to attempt to assess the gravity of the situation. Eventually, she made contact with her vet clinic and was instructed to bring the animal in as they confirmed the animal would be accepted immediately. She did so. Upon her arrival, she honestly told the clinicians every step she took to relieve the animal’s distress while she waited to get there. The clinicians interpreted what she said (in her state of panic) and concluded she performed a medical procedure. The animal was treated at the clinic. My client accepted all medical interventions the clinic offered.

After the incident, some months later, my client was contacted by a peace officer. The peace officer indicated they wanted to speak with my client about the Veterinarian Profession Act and the animal. My client did not understand the seriousness of the situation. She spoke with the officer and explained what happen. To her shock and horror, sometime later, she was charged with practicing veterinary medicine without a licence and allowing/causing her animal to remain in distress.

She was and still is in a state of grief over the loss of her animal. She was shocked and confused as to how anyone could interpret her actions to be contrary to any regulations. Despite her grief, she obtained experienced legal counsel to help her mount a defence.

It is important to understand that both of these charges are not true criminal charges. They are regulatory charges and therefore considered quasi-criminal in nature. This means the prosecutor does not have to prove men's rea or mental intent to commit the offence. Instead, the prosecutor must only prove the actus reus, the actions of the offences. If the prosecutor is successful, then a burden to establish due diligence is upon the defence. This makes defending these types of charges complex and difficult.

I met with my client. I gathered more information. I obtained an expert witness that would refute the clinicians’ conclusions and rebut the prosecutor’s expert witness. I built a defence around my client’s statement to the peace officer. We prepared slowly and diligently. Ultimately, based on thorough and competent work, both charges have been withdrawn.

This case demonstrates that retaining an experienced lawyer makes a difference. Although my client is still grieving the loss of her beloved companion, she is no longer facing legal consequences. It takes time and effort to get to the bottom of the matter and to shape the proper defence. My client was patient and understanding as we went through the lengthy and sometimes emotional process. This case also exhibits the importance of shaping a defence in between the crown’s theory that she omitted to do something she was responsible to do as well as she committed an action that caused distress and practiced veterinarian medicine without a licence.

If you have been charged with causing an animal to be in distress or any other animal-related charge contact us today.

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