Disciplinary Committee strikes off vet convicted of animal welfare offences
The Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has directed the Registrar to remove a Leeds-based veterinary surgeon from the Register following his conviction for animal welfare offences in 2016.
The Disciplinary Committee hearing for Gary James Cassius Samuel took place on Tuesday 10 and Wednesday 11 July in respect of the fact that he was convicted, on 21 January 2016, at Leeds Magistrate Court of five offences contrary to the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The charges related to causing unnecessary suffering to a number of animals including twelve dogs and four cats and failing to take steps to ensure that the needs of the animals for which he was responsible were met. These animals were kept at the Armley Veterinary Practice, for which Dr Samuel was, at the time, practice principal.
In relation to these convictions on 7 March 2016 he was sentenced to 12 weeks’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months on the condition he completed 150 hours’ unpaid work and paid a fine of £100; was ordered to pay costs of £500 and a victim surcharge of £80; and made subject to a disqualification order for three years. Dr Samuel appealed against his conviction with the appeal being heard in April 2018 – Dr Samuel’s appeal was dismissed in respect of five of the charges but was upheld in respect of one charge, which, as a result, did not form part of the College’s case.
Dr Samuel declined to attend the hearing in person and was not represented before the Disciplinary Committee. In considering the facts of the charges against Dr Samuel the Committee found them proven.
The Committee then went on to consider whether the proven charges, both individually and cumulatively, rendered Dr Samuel unfit to practise as a veterinary surgeon. The College’s case was that the convictions concerned animal welfare and therefore went to the heart of his practice as a vet, that Dr Samuel behaved in a manner incompatible with being a veterinary surgeon, that he failed in his core responsibility as a veterinary surgeon to protect and act in the best interests of animal welfare, and that he maintained he had no responsibility for the animals on his practice premises – an assertion referred to as ‘an extraordinary position for a veterinary surgeon to take’.
Ian Green, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “Just as the judgment of the Crown Court and the Magistrates Court had found, the Committee also found that Dr Samuel must have known that the animals were in distress and were in a neglected state. The Committee was sure that Dr Samuel must have been aware of the animals notwithstanding his continued denial. The Committee concluded that Dr Samuel was unfit to practise because of the facts underlying the convictions. Dr Samuel had an overriding duty of care for the animals and to take action in relation to their health and welfare because they were living under the roof of his veterinary practice.”
In considering its sanction against Dr Samuel, the Committee concluded that removal from the Register was the most appropriate option. It took into account the fact that the animals were found starving in a cellar without water, that Dr Samuel had not demonstrated insight into the serious nature of his offences, that he continued to deny responsibility and, furthermore, found no evidence that he no longer posed a risk to animals in the future.
Ian Green added: “The Committee decided that the behaviour found proved was fundamentally incompatible with being a veterinary surgeon because in this case there had been a serious departure from standards as set out in the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons…. Furthermore, there had been serious harm caused to a number of animals and a risk of harm to a number of other animals.”
Dr Samuel has 28 days from being informed of the Disciplinary Committee’s decision in which to make an appeal to the Privy Council.