A nurse has been suspended from the VN register after she lied to clients and colleagues about the fate of a Maine Coon cat brought into her practice to be euthanised.
A Milton Keynes nurse has been suspended from the VN register after she lied to clients and colleagues about the fate of a Maine Coon cat brought into her practice to be euthanised.
In the second case to be heard by the RCVS VN disciplinary committee (DC) – which concluded in London on July 16 – Sally-Ann Roberts received a two-month suspension from the register for disgraceful professional conduct.
Her case centred on events that took place between June and October 2011, while she was working at the Thrapston branch of Best Friends Veterinary Group.
In June 2011, Maine Coon cat Jason was brought into the practice by his owner Mr Griffiths, and was found to be suffering a dental infection and abdominal mass.
Jason was then brought back by Mrs Griffiths. His infection had cleared, however, the abdominal mass had increased, so vet Przemyslaw Bogdanowicz and Roberts investigated and cleared a faecal blockage.
However, the cat deteriorated and was returned again the next day, and his owners decided he should be put down.
When Bogdanowicz – who was suspended by the veterinary DC for his role in Jason’s case – went to euthanise the cat, Roberts pleaded to take him, to see if intensive nursing could “give him a chance”.
Roberts took the cat home, without informing Mr and Mrs Griffiths, and Jason did start to recover. However, about 10 days later he escaped through an open window in Roberts’ home and has never been found.
Knowing the cat was microchipped, Roberts phoned database provider Animalcare, asking it to switch Jason’s registration details to her. She also provided the company with fraudulent documents to support a change of ownership.
However, Animalcare phoned the Griffiths’ to confirm the handover and when Mrs Griffiths phoned the practice, Roberts said Jason had escaped pre-euthanasia, only to be returned and then destroyed. Disbelieving this, Mrs Griffiths complained to Best Friends.
When intially interviewed, Roberts said the cat had escaped from the practice. However, she later told the truth. Both vet and VN were sacked.
The VN DC agreed Roberts’ lying and forged documentation amounted to “disgraceful conduct in a professional respect”, however, it was sensitive to mitigating information about Roberts’ health and personal circumstances at the time, and the fact she later admitted to and recognised the seriousness of her actions.
The DC heard how Roberts admitted her conduct was borne of stress and panic and “an impulsive moment of weakness, that she had never considered in 20 years as a VN, and would never do again”. Giving evidence, she said being a VN “meant everything to her”.
The DC weighed up Roberts’ mitigating circumstances and her admission of guilt, as well as her good standing and the three-month suspension given to Bogdanowicz by RCVS DC in December 2012.
Speaking on behalf of the committee VN DC chairman Peter Lees said: “In reaching its decision on the appropriate period, [VN DC] recognises the impact such sanction would have on the respondent.
“In light of the respondent’s admission, her insight, her remorse and the high regard in which she was held by her professional colleagues, it is the committee’s view the appropriate and proportionate period of suspension is two months.”